Ray Barretto: Giant Force

“Ray Barretto, percussionist and conductor, known throughout the world as Manos Duras, belongs to a generation of children of Boricua immigrants who settled in the Big Apple in search of a better future. His parents Ramón Barreto and Dolores Pagán, came from Aguadilla, a town in western Puerto Rico, a land that also saw the birth of the great composer of “El Cumbanchero” and “Lamento Borincano” Rafael Hernández.”

A new book about music, composition, musicians, or singers is and will always be great news for all of us who love the most subliminal art of humankind. Ray Barretto, Giant Force is no exception. Written by Robert Téllez (a Colombian journalist dedicated to research into the history of Afro-Caribbean music), this publication tells the exciting life of one of the most prolific and talented percussionists in the history of salsa and jazz. 

This work is a versatile book because it has been created, unconsciously I believe, as a material for amateurs and experts alike in Latin music. Composed of 230 pages, this volume tells us, in chronological order, the background and musical journey of Ray Barretto. Fania All-Stars is the first name that comes to most people’s minds when they hear his name, but this work shows us not only his career in the salsa field, but also his contribution to jazz, the perfect examples are the experimental albums for the Atlantic label: “Eye of the Beholder” and “Can You Feel It?”   

The book’s subtitles invite the curious reader to look into the stories of “Manos Duras” (Hard Hands), as he was called, during the golden times of salsa in New York. Short but catchy subtitles the book has; “The Legend is Born”, “The Barrio”, or “New World Spirit” are just a few. The volume is a serious revision of his discography, including covers, themes lists, and credits, giving the reader a chance to connect to other musicians in the vast universe of jazz. Mr. Téllez tells a great narrative sequence where he explains how the record labels played their role in Barretto’s musical career. Riverside, Tico, United Artists, Atlantic, and, of course, Fania are some of the companies that were privileged to have his name in their catalogs.  

Ray Barretto, Giant Force, translated by Ronald P.S. Vázquez, and prologue by Elmer González, is a judicious research into the musical life and work of the passionate and charismatic New Yorker Raymond Barretto Pagán, son of Puerto Rican immigrants, who was captivated by the ghostly enchantment of pure jazz in New York in the early ’50s. The night that he heard Charlie Parker, he knew the fire had been lit in him forever. A book about music, composition, musicians or singers is and will always be a wonderful, magical, priceless present for all of us who believe music is the most special gift, after life, that God gives us in this earthly dimension.

Title: Ray Barretto, Giant Force
Author: Robert Téllez
Translator: Ronald P.S. Vázquez
Editor: Toby Dennis Bennett
Illustrator: Frank Rosado
Photographer: Julio Costoso
Contributor: Bella Martínez
Contributor: Giovanni Hidalgo
Publishing House: Unos & Otros Ediciones
Country: United States
Year: 2021
ISBN: 979-8-593-74851-5

Oscar Montagut
Oscar graduated in journalism and education in Colombia, and completed a postgraduate program in Creative Writing in Canada. He works as an English teacher, translator and freelance writer in Bogotá. Oscar is a music collector, explorer and promoter of World Music and Jazz.

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