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February 18, 2006

Percussionist Ray Baretto Dies

Written by
cindy mcleod

Famed percussionist Ray Baretto has died this morning in Hackensack, N.J.

For nearly 40 years, conguero and bandleader Ray Barretto has been one of the leading forces in Latin jazz. He has appeared on the recordings of saxophonists Gene Ammons, Lou Donaldson, Sonny Stitt, and guitarists Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell.

Born April 29, 1929, in Brooklyn, Barretto is one of the most prolific and influential Latin percussionists in the history of modern jazz. He is noted for being a front runner in the Latin idiom, but also for his years of contributions to the bebop jams of Harlem in the late 40’s. He was instrumental in integrating the Latin sound with mainstream and improvisational jazz. He was inspired to play jazz after hearing the tune “Manteca” (Gillespie) with Chano Pozo on percussion, and later recorded the tune with Red Garland.

Barretto was an undisputed master of the style, and a pioneer of the salsa movement. He gained international superstardom and released nearly two dozen albums with the Fania label from the late-’60s until salsa’s popularity peaked in the mid-1980’s.

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