Ray Barretto


My roots are Latin and jazz. With my brother, sister and mother, We lived in the barrio, Spanish Harlem. My mother would go to night school to learn English, to be a better citizen. When she was away, it was a drag to be left alone. I turned the radio on and fell in love with the American big band. At the time it was Glenn Miller, Harry James and others


Ray Barretto was born April 29th 1929 in New York City, and raised in Spanish Harlem with his parents who were of Puerto Rican descent. He first took up congos while sationed in Germany while working in the army, and on arriving back to New York was soon asked to play for Tinto Puene, for whom he played for four years. Barretto developed a unique style of playing the conga and soon he was sought by other jazz band leaders. Latin percussionists started to appear in jazz groups with frequency as a consequence of Barretto’s musical influence. In 1960, Barretto was a house musician for the Prestige, Blue Note, and Riverside labels. He also recorded on Columbia Records with Jazz flautist Herbie Mann. Barretto made his main mark in the ’60s as a super session player, playing on albums by Gene Ammons, Cannonball Adderley, Kenny Burrell, Lou Donaldson, Red Garland, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Wes Montgomery, Cal Tjader, and several other jazz and pop albums. In moving over to the Fania label in 1967, Barretto began to achieve recognition as one of the leading Latin jazz artists of the day, eventually becoming music director of the Fania All-Stars. In the ’70s, he was incorporating rock and funk influences into his music while recording for Atlantic, and in 1981, he made a highly regarded album for CTI La Cuna, with Puente, Joe Farrell, and Charlie Palmieri as guest players.