Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ray Barretto - 1995 "My Summertime"

Ray Barretto (a master of the congas) has effectively fused together bop-oriented jazz with Latin rhythms to form a particularly viable version of Afro-Cuban jazz; he hates the term "Latin jazz." Rather than sounding like two forms of music, Barretto's group New World Spirit shows that Latin rhythms can uplift all types of jazz songs, even ballads such as "When You Wish Upon A Star." Barretto's sextet is quite strong with Michael Philip Mossman's trumpet recalling Freddie Hubbard at times, Adam Kolker showing versatility and hard-driving swing during his tenor and soprano solos and the leader constantly cooking in the rhythm section. Whether it be Duke Jordan's "No Problem," "While My Lady Sleeps" or "Summertime" (which has Barretto partly talking his way through a vocal), the music is both creative and easily accessible. Recommended.

"My Summertime" is one of the finest achievements of a career that spanned half a century and encompassed both the Salsa and Jazz Worlds. When it was released in France in 1995, it made Ray Barretto a star in that nation. It's not difficult to see why. Barretto took several well-known standards, beloved songs such as Autumn Leaves and When You Wish Upon a Star, and made them new, in a Latin jazz vein. Some would say in an Instrumental Salsa vein, because of the danceability of these versions and their adherence to the clave. But categories don't matter here. What's really important is that this is soulful, swinging, heartfelt music played by a great edition of Barretto's New World Spirit ensemble, which included Hector Martignon on piano, Michael Phillip Mossman on trumpet and Adam Kolker on sax. The jewel of the crown, however, is the track titled "Summertime (Guajira)", in which Barretto -who in his younger years played congas for jazz luminaries such as Red Garland, Gene Ammons, Wes Montgomery, Lou Donaldson and others- actually SINGS the lyrics to that tune, and then adds a few of his own, emphasizing the "strong common bond" of guajira and the blues, "the two worlds that I love". It's a beautiful, unique performance that grabs your heart and mind.
To most fans, Ray Barretto is known as one of the Fania All Stars, one of the brightest Salsa leaders whose Fania albums are now classics. But he also loved jazz, and when "hard salsa" went into a steep decline at the 1980s, he decided to pursue his jazz interests full-time. "My Summertime" was recorded after a couple of albums for Concord Picante and showcases New World Spirit at a very high musical point. Barretto made several good albums after this one (Contact, Portraits in Jazz and Clave, Trancedance, Homage to Art Blakey, Time Was Time Is and Standards Rican-Ditioned) all of which merit close inspection. But "My Summertime" was the album that inaugurated the last purple patch of this beloved musician's life. It deserves a place on every Latin- or Latin jazz-lover's record collection.

I have known about Ray Barretto since I was a kid. Title cut 'My Summertime' is a very rhytmic Guajida that wraps around a spoken dialogue about the musical form... 'from the people', and makes a comparison of field workers cutting sugar cane in South America, and the cotton workers in the Southern US, with very tasty punctuation and support from piano and percussions. Then the rest of the musicians are introduced for the real thing! 

Track Listings

  1. No Hay Problema (No Problem)
  2. In Your Own Sweet Way
  3. Brother Ray
  4. When You Wish Upon A Star
  5. Autumn Leaves
  6. While My Lady Sleeps
  7. Off Minor
  8. Fait Accompli
  9. Summertime-(Guajira)
  10. Worlds I Love


    Percussion - Ray Barretto
    Acoustic Bass, Electric Bass – Jairo Moreno (2)
    Congas, Mixed By, Edited By, Mastered By, Sequenced By – Ray Barretto
    Drums – Vince Cherico
    Guiro – Alfredo «Tito» Gonzalez* (tracks: 3, 9)
    Piano – Hector Martignon
    Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Adam Kolker
    Trumpet, Trombone, Flugelhorn – Michael Philip Mossman
    Vocals – Ray Barretto (tracks: 9)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great blog. Lots of great music and new discoveries.
    Any chance of a re-up on this one?
    Ray os one of my favorites.


  4. Thanks for the new link.