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Ray Barretto

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Ray Barretto (April 29, 1929 – February 17, 2006) was a Grammy Award-winning Latin/Latin jazz musician of Puerto Rican ancestry.

Ray Barretto, a percussionist extraordinaire and legend in the Salsa & latin Jazz music community has left the music scene with his death in February 2006 at age 76.
Born of Puerto Rican descendence in Brooklyn during the depression, he lived with his mother in East Harlem, The South Bronx and other “boricua” districts before he joined the army, where in the latter 1940’s he heard Dizzy Gillespie’s hard bebop. The young man was transfixed by Dizzy Gillespie - Manteca,” which featured conguero Chano Pozo.

He started sitting in at a Munich jazz club, and after his discharge, by the early 50’s he had bought his own Cuban Cnga drum and was playing regularly at clubs like The Bucket of Blood. Soon Mambo was the rage, and Barretto eventually started playing with Tito Puente in 1957, replacing the famed Mongo Santamaria. He became a band leader on his own by 1961, and had a big hit with his group Charanga Moderna and their boogaloo dance craze single called “el Watusi” in 1963 that was the first Latin record to hit the Billboard top 20, and went Gold.



Barretto is credited by some for bringing the African Conga drum into popular music, and had a crossover appeal that transcended the genre boundries of mainstream music categories. He gained recognition beyond the Puerto Rican music scene, ex. played on many Blue Note albums. He beacme associated with the Latin label Fania in the 1960’s and played for three decades in the popular ensemble called the Fania All Stars alongsde Willie Colon, Ruben Blades and others.

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