Barretto Power: A Celebratory Reissue on its 50th Anniversary
It was 1970 when Fania Records released Barretto Power, one of a series of seminal albums by master percussionist and bandleader Ray Barretto. 1970, the beginning of an explosive decade in our planet. A decade of crisis and change, especially in New York. A decade of socioeconomic and cultural challenges for a new Latino generation in the Big Apple. Tropical music, the explosion of the so called salsa movement as a unifying phenomenon was gathering momentum, a diverse community searching for identity was embracing their roots in times of challenge. Ray Barretto, a New Yorker from Puerto Rican ancestry [Nuyorican] was redefining again his sound, always open to experimentation and new combinations.
This new edition of Barretto Power boasts all-analog mastering by Kevin Grayat Cohearent Audio and marks the first vinyl reissue since its original release. The 180-grams vinyl has been manufactured at Memphis Record Pressing.
Barretto Power: Starting Point of Ray’s Creative Apex
Oye La Noticia [Ray Barretto]: A hard salsa track with an infectious montuno tumbao composed by Mr Barretto. A joy for the dancers. The lyrics talk about envy and jealousy among artists, a theme very much in vogue at that time.
Perla Del Sur [Roberto Rodríguez]: A heartfelt tribute to his beloved Cienfuegos, on this track Mr Rodríguez reminisces about the city where he was born in the island of Cuba, where he grew up and where he started his musical career, at the very young age of twelve.
Right On [Ray Barretto/Louis Cruz]: About this track, I quote drummer, percussionist, bandleader, educator Bobby Sanabria: “…composed by Ray is what best can be described as a rock/funk/boogaloo tune with it’s catchy unison bass and piano figure and its lyrics addressing Ray’s pride in his multi-cultural NYC upbringing. Listen to René’s hip jazz influenced solo over the funky bass line. It exudes Nuyorican soul.”
De Que Te Quejas Tú [Tite Curet Alonso]: Tite Curet, a true boricua born in Guayama, a town located in the southern region of Puerto Rico, composed more than two thousand songs. It’s been said that around 200 of these were hit songs, and about 50 were major salsa hits. I do believe “De Que Te Quejas Tú” is one of those hits. Adalberto Santiago, a natural sonero, proves why he’s one of the best on this up-tempo, very danceable guaracha.
Y Dicen [Tony Fuentes]: This is a composition by bongocero Tony Fuentes. Again, I quote Bobby Sanabria on this track: “…is classic son montuno that addresses the band’s swing and sabor [taste] at a medium tempo. Roberto Rodriguez is featured as he slyly quotes Stormy Weather in his solo.
Quítate La Máscara [Hugo González]: A smash hit in the guaguancó/guaracha style written by Cuban Hugo González, put singer Adalberto Santiago in the international map of greatest Afro-Caribbean singers of his time, and the Ray Barretto Orchestra as one of the greatest salsa bands of all times.
Sé Que Volverás [Louis Cruz]: A rapturous, beautiful bolero, composed by pianist Louis Cruz, a sample of the versatility of Ray’s band executing different styles in the ample spectrum of Latin, tropical music.
Power [Ray Barretto/Louis Cruz]: The only instrumental piece on the album, “Power” is a funky, jazzy composition where the band has the opportunity to get a bit loose in the descarga style, keeping their cool but eloquently displaying their chops.
The Band: A Dream Team, Nine Members Ensemble
Ray Barretto: Congas, Bandleader. Legendary percussionist and bandleader of Puerto Rican ancestry. Throughout his career he played a wide variety of Latin music styles, as well as Latin jazz. His first hit, “El Watusi”, was recorded by his Charanga Moderna in 1962, becoming the most successful pachanga song in the United States. In the late 1960s, Barretto became one of the leading exponents of boogaloo and what would later be known as salsa. Nonetheless, many of Barretto’s recordings would remain rooted in more traditional genres such as son cubano. A master of the descarga [improvised jam session], Barretto was a long-time member of the Fania All-Stars. His success continued into the 1970s with songs such as “Cocinando” and “Indestructible.” His last album for Fania Records, Soy dichoso, was released in 1990. He then formed the New World Spirit jazz ensemble and continued to tour and record until his death in 2006. [Wikipedia]
Adalberto Santiago: Vocals. A living legend, Mr Santiago is widely acclaimed for his distinctive voice, perfectly suited for the salsa genre. His early influences included the great Cuban vocalists Beny Moré and Miguelito Cuní. Santiago started his professional career singing with trios and playing guitar and bass. A member of Ray’s orchestra for six years [1966 to 1972], in 1979 he reunited with Ray on his acclaimed album Rican/Struction. He was also a founding member of The Fania All-Stars.
René López: Trumpet. Born in New York, he was a Jazz and salsa trumpet player of Puerto Rican descent. López recorded several albums with Ray Barretto. He was one of the former members of Barretto’s band who founded the legendary New York salsa band Tipica ’73, an experimental ensemble which blended traditional Caribbean musical elements with songo, jazz and funk.
Roberto Rodríguez: Trumpet. Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, an accomplished trumpet player and composer, he was a member of Ray Barretto’s band for eleven years. During that time he composed several famous songs such as: “Yo Soy La Candela”, “Fuego y Pa’Lante”, “Invitación al Son”, “Cienfuegos”, “Perla del Sur” and the worldwide hit: “Que Viva la Música”.
Joseph “Papy” Román: Trumpet, Trombone. A member of the Ray Barretto Orchestra for many years. Román and Tony Fuentes were in charge of Ray’s orchestra when he retired, becoming the Orquesta Guararé.
Orestes Vilató: Timbales. Cuban percussionist from Camagüey. He has worked as a sideman with Ray Barretto, Johnny Pacheco, Cachao, Fania All-Stars, Santana. He is considered to be one of the foremost timbaleros in Afro-Caribbean music, and a strong musical presence in the San Francisco Bay Area, playing with several groups like John Santos’ Machete Ensemble and Los Kimbos.
[Antonio] Tony Fuentes: Bongó. His musical career began playing in Combo Guayama, by Charlie Rodríguez, who was Johnny Pacheco’s tres player. A couple of years later Willie Rosario invites him to be part of his group, in which he was for some time, also alternating with Johnny Pacheco, Eddie Palmieri and Charlie Palmieri, Willie Colón, Bobby Valentín and Tito Puente. He then joined the Ray Barretto Orchestra in which he remained uninterrupted for 10 years. When Ray Barreto retired, he left the reins of the orchestra to Tony Fuentes and Joseph “Papy” Román, the trumpeter. He then changed the group to be called Orquesta Guararé. [Source: Johnny Torres Rivera – puertadetierra.info]
[José Luis] Louis Cruz: Piano. One of the most prolific arrangers for the Fania label during its prime. He created award winning arrangements for Ray Barretto, La Lupe, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez, Angel Canales, Willie Colón, Rubén Blades, Adalberto Santiago, Tito Puente, Héctor Lavoe, Típica 73, Conjunto Clásico, among others. He contributed as a pianist with Willie Rosario, Ray Barretto, Conjunto Libre and La Sonora Matancera, in addition to his involvement as a leader of four bands accompanying the likes of Ismael Miranda, Raúl Marrero, Vitín Avilés and Ismael Quintana. [Obituary]
Andy González: Bass. One of the most respected and well-known bassists in Jazz & Latin music. A native of The Bronx, New York, born in 1951 to parents from the Lares section of Puerto Rico, music was already in his blood. He and his brother Jerry González were founding members of Conjunto Libre and Grupo Folklórico y Experimental Nuevayorquíno, with whom he produced three albums: Concepts in Unity , Lo Dice Todo , and Homenaje a Arsenio . In 1980, the González brothers would again break new ground with the formation of the Fort Apache Band, arguably one of the most important & influential groups playing what became known as Latin Jazz. González died from pneumonia and complications of diabetes on April 9, 2020. [excerpts from Keith Thomas and Wikipedia]
Chorus – Justo Betancourt, Eladio “Yayo El Indio” Peguero [“Oye La Noticia”, “De Que Te Quejas Tú” and “Perla Del Sur”]. Justo Betancourt, Héctor Lavoe, Willie Torres [“Y Dicen” and “Quítate La Máscara”]
Producer: Ray Barretto
Executive Producer: Jerry Masucci
Musical Director: Ray Barretto
Arrangements: Ray Barretto and Louis Cruz
Recording Engineer: Fred Weinberg
Recorded at Universal Studios in NYC
Original LP Cover Concept and Painting: Izzy Sanabria
The Venerated Vinyl LP is King Again
No doubt we’re living a new era of vinyl revival. It’s now hip and cool to listen to and collect music in the format preferred by serious listeners and audiophiles. There’s also other factors for this revival: the nostalgia for old technology, for vintage stuff that once again is in style. The need to slow down in our crazy lives and immerse in the deep listening experience that only a vinyl album can provide. Hard core and savvy collectors never got rid of their vinyl libraries and sound equipment. Those who unfortunately switched to compact disc and threw away their collections are now rebuilding them, helped by reissues like this one, Barretto Power by master percussionist and bandleader Ray Barretto, which is not only welcome, but make the experience of collecting a tangible piece of musical history very gratifying.
About Craft Latino
Craft Latino is home to one of the largest and most prestigious collections of Latin music master recordings and compositions in the world. Its rich and storied repertoire includes legendary artists such as Antonio Aguilar, Joan Sebastian, Pepe Aguilar, Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colón, Ray Barretto, La Lupe, Rubén Blades and the Fania All Stars, to name just a few. Renowned imprints with catalogs issued under the Craft banner include Musart, Fania, TH, Panart, West Side Latino and Kubaney, among many others. Craft creates thoughtfully curated packages, with a meticulous devotion to quality and a commitment to preservation, ensuring that these recordings endure for new generations to discover. Craft Latino is the Latin repertoire arm of Craft Recordings. For more info, visit CraftRecordings.com.
Tribute to the Masters: Mario Rivera
Mario Rivera was a gifted musician, composer and arranger that played more than 15 instruments, which included piano, vibraphone, drums, trumpet, timbales, congas, flute, and piccolo. But Rivera was known for how he kissed and caressed the tenor, soprano, alto and baritone saxophones. He could play all of the family of saxophones on a virtuosic level as a soloist and section player and was one of the very few saxophonists who also mastered of the flute in the Cuban charanga style. Unlike most musicians, Rivera played all these instruments at an exceedingly high level of musicianship. Rivera dominated the “straight- ahead” jazz and Latin Jazz, Salsa and many other genres.
Mario was born July 22, 1939 in Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic. After he arrived in NYC in 1961, he worked with Puerto Rican vocalist Joe Valle. His most significant musical associations through the years include Tito Rodríguez (1963-65), The Machito Orchestra, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri, Típica 73, The George Coleman Octet, Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, Slide Hampton’s Jazz Masters, the Afro Blue Band, Giovanni Hidalgo, Chico O’Farrill’s Orchestra and especially Tito Puente’s Orchestra and Latin Jazz Ensemble with whom he worked for on and off for decades.
Even though Rivera was one of the hardest working sidemen in the jazz and Latin music business he also led two groups of his own Salsa Refugees and The Mario Rivera Sextet. Although having appeared on virtually hundreds of recording, Mario recorded only one disc as a leader named after his sobriquet, “El Comandante.” It has fine examples of combinations of the native rhythm of his homeland, merengue from the Dominican Republic and jazz improvisation. Indeed it can be considered not only a tribute to his homeland and his mastery of jazz harmony but an homage also to one of his inspirations and yet another unsung hero, fellow Dominican saxophone master, Tavito Vásquez.
Rivera’s passing has been felt very hard in the Latin music and jazz community and he is sorely missed. But we have his stories, music recordings, photos, and videos to remember this grand musician because what he left us makes him truly immortal.
We leave the readers with these final thoughts from Mario himself: “In my case, the day becomes the night and the night becomes the day. There are no vehicles on the street; there are no sirens at night. There is nothing that could block the inspiration. My home is like a musical laboratory because I have to accomplish so many things, I have to learn to play so many instruments. I spend all of my free time at home, practicing like a maniac, refining my chops. This is why I play 24 instruments. When it comes to music, one must be actively militant. Music demands your entire attention and dedication. If a musician is not willing to make that commitment, he will end up floating on a sea of turds, along with the other idle and mediocre characters.”
Mario Rivera passed in August, 2007, may he play on.
Content source: James Nadal
Photos from the Facebook Tribute Page: Mario Rivera “el Comandante”
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