Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ray Barretto - 1973 [1993] "Carnaval"

One of the many budget-priced Fantasy mid-'70s repackages to get a '90s CD issue (rather than simply releasing the original LPs with their original titles and artwork), Ray Barretto's Carnaval combines two 1962 sessions, Pachanga With Barretto (his Milestone label debut as a leader) and Latino!. Both sets feature Barretto's first band, Charanga Moderna, with trumpeter El Negro Vivar and tenor saxophonist Jose Chombo Silva added to the front line for the latter LP. The first album (confusingly the latter on the CD reissue, comprising tracks nine-18) is very much a Latin jazz album of its time, with all ten tracks designed for dancing the briefly popular pachanga, a dance that was simply too manic and difficult to catch on widely. The pachanga-friendly tempos on these ten brief cuts (most under three minutes) make the album sound rushed and nervous to ears unfamiliar with the dance fad. The far-better Latino!, recorded in nearly the same session, is a good old-fashioned jam session, with more leisurely tempos and extended playing times that give all the soloists -- especially Vivar, Silva, and flutist Jose Canoura -- plenty of room to stretch out. These two albums are very different, but hearing both of them in proximity reveals much about the state of the New York City Latin jazz scene in the early '60s.

This album was recorded at Plaza Sound Studio in New York City on January 1 & 2, 1961 and September 20, 1962 and released that same year. The album was re-released in 1973 and is a latin jazz pachanga oriented masterpiece with some of the great musicians of the day. The personnel Barretto (bongos, congas, timbales) included were Mike Stancerone (violin); Frank Mercado, "Chombo" Silva (tenor saxophone); Jose Canoura (flute); "El Negro" Vivar (trumpet); Alfredito Valdez, Jr. (piano); Ricky Jackson (bass); Wito Kortwright (guiro); Ray Mantilla (timbales); Willie Rodriguez (piano) and Rudy Calzado (percussion). Cocinando Suave is an extraordinary and timeless arrangement and the album is a must for any library. Listen and you will not be disappointed with each and every arrangement. 

Before he became the fiendishly energetic leader of the early-'70s Nuyorican movement, Ray Barretto made a slew of comparatively buttoned-up but highly sensual Latin jazz albums in the early '60s. Carnaval comprises two of the best of these efforts: 1962’s Pachanga and 1963’s Latino!. As he'd prove in the years to come, Barretto had much more to offer than sleek jazz tunes played at a cocktail-lounge volume. But as is the case with comparable masters like Marvin Gaye or John Coltrane, the intricacies of Barretto’s early work often get overwritten in appraisals of his later accomplishments. The horn sections are less visceral on these early works, which lets the interplay between piano and percussion shine through. The addition of violin and flute also gives these performances a distinct and sometimes otherworldly texture. In a few years, Puerto Ricans would be expressing their heritage with a newfound militancy, but it’s impossible to hear “Pachanga Suavecito” and not feel that Barretto had already struck the ultimate pose of exquisite style and self-composure.

These two lp's from early in Barretto's career, are perhaphs the finest sessions he ever led. The sidemen all are on FIRE!!! These heated sessions feature mambos, cha cha's(or what we now call salsa). Whatever you want to call it Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa dancing music, or pachanga music, it is party music for dancing, as well as legit jazz for lsitening. exotic percussions by Barretto, and great jazz gorn solos. Entrancing, enhcanting, and fun music. ESSENTIAL salsa and Latin jazz.

While Ray Barretto's congas have graced more recording sessions than virtually any other conguero of his time, he has also led some refreshingly progressive Latin jazz bands over the decades. His records often have a more tense, more adventurously eclectic edge than those of most conventional salsa groups, unafraid to use electronics and novel instrumental or structural combinations, driven hard by his rocksteady, endlessly flexible percussion work. This no doubt reflects Barretto's wide range of musical interests and also the fact that he came to Latin music from jazz, rather than the usual vice versa route for Latin-descended musicians. Indeed, he has said that he learned how to play swing-style before he came to master Latin grooves. Puerto Rican by extraction, Barretto took up the congas while stationed in Germany during an Army hitch. He began working with American jazz musicians upon his return to New York, eventually replacing Mongo Santamaria in the Tito Puente band for four years, beginning in the late '50s. Barretto made his debut as a leader for Riverside in 1962 and scored a crossover hit (number 17 on the pop charts) the following year on Tico with "El Watusi" (in tandem with a dance craze of the time). He tried to modernize the charanga sound with injections of brass, covering rock and pop tunes of the time as several Latin artists did then. However, 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 -- with only limited success -- 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. He became music director of the Bravisimo television program and took part in the multi-idiom, all-star, anti-apartheid Sun City recording and video in 1985. In 1992, he unveiled a new Latin jazz sextet, New World Spirit, which made some absorbingly unpredictable albums for Concord Picante

This may be Ray Barrettos "obra maestra" (masterpiece). "Cocinando Suave", the version of "Summertime", and everything else on this CD transcends time and genre.


1. Manha De Carnaval
2. Sugar's Delight
3. Exodus
4. Descarga La Moderna
5. Summertime
6. El Negro Y Ray
7. Mira Que Linda
8. Cocinando Suave
9. Pachanga Oriental
10. Barretto En La Tumbadora
11. Cumbamba
12. El Paso
13. Linda Mulata
14. Oye Heck
15. Los Cueros
16. Pachanga Suavecito
17. Ponte Dura
18. Pachanga Para Bailar


Ray Barretto (congas, bongos, timbales);
Mike Stancerone (violin);
Jose Canoura (flute);
Frank Mercado, Chombo Silva, Jose Silva (tenor saxophone);
El Negro Vivar (trumpet);
Alfredito Valdez, Jr. (piano);
Ray Mantilla (timbales);
Rudy Calzado, Willie Rodriguez (percussion).


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