The man who reputedly became the most widely recorded conguero in jazz, Ray Barretto was born in Brooklyn in 1929. He decided to become a musician after hearing Chano Pozo playing with Dizzy Gillespie on the groundbreaking Latin jazz track “Manteca.” After ousting Mongo Santamaría from Tito Puente's band in 1957, he became one of the most requested musicians of the time, performing with the house bands of the Prestige, Blue Note and Riverside labels-- all at the same time. ...MORE >
The man who reputedly became the most widely recorded conguero in jazz, Ray Barretto was born in Brooklyn in 1929. He decided to become a musician after hearing Chano Pozo playing with Dizzy Gillespie on the groundbreaking Latin jazz track “Manteca.” After ousting Mongo Santamaría from Tito Puente's band in 1957, he became one of the most requested musicians of the time, performing with the house bands of the Prestige, Blue Note and Riverside labels-- all at the same time. He branched out as a bandleader in 1961, and the following year became the first Latin artist to score a Billboard Top-20 hit with the song “El Watusi.” After signing with the Fania label, he recorded a string of progressive minded albums, culminating with the monster Latin funk hit "Together (Juntos)," an anti-racism anthem sung by Barretto himself.
MONGUITO SANTAMARIA ¬- YOU NEED HELP
The son of Afro-Cuban conga hero Mongo Santamaría, Monguito should not be confused with the vocalist of the same who recorded with Johnny Pacheco. He released three killer albums, beginning with the boogaloo heavy Hey Sister and culminating with En Una Nota. The most requested of the three is Blackout, which still sells for about $100 in the collector's market. Performed by Ronnie Marks, "You need Help” is culled from that record.
JOE BATAAN ¬- I'M SATISFIED
Born in 1942 in Spanish Harlem, Joe Bataan turned to music after a spell in jail for driving a stolen vehicle. Credited for his contribution in starting the Latin soul craze of the late '60s, he enjoyed a string of hits such as “Ordinary Guy," “Gypsy Woman” and “Subway Joe.” The heavy funk track “I'm Satisfied” was included in the 1970 LP Sweet Soul, and also released as a limited edition 45 rpm promo. In 1995, Bataan returned to the music industry after 20 years of working with juveniles in correctional facilities throughout New York. Ten years later, 30 years after his last album had come out, he released an album titled Call My Name.
CAFE ¬ - IDENTIFY YOURSELF
Café's obscure, self-titled 1974 LP on the Vaya label is something of a mystery. Produced by Ray Barretto, the record fuses Latin funk with rock and salsa. A highlight is the instrumental “Identify Yourself,” arranged by bandleaders Daniel Zaremba and Jeff Chaumont.
FLASH AND THE DYNAMICS ¬- EVERYBODY¹S GOT SOUL
A psychedelic funk group led by George Espada, Flash and the Dynamics released only one album, which is highly sought out. Released on the Tico label, The New York Sound included the track “Everybody's Got Soul,” one of the rawest slices of Latin funk ever heard. After the band split up, Espada worked as a professional wrestler before becoming a Republican district leader in the East Harlem area.
GILBERTO CRUZ - ¬ HOT PANTS (SHE GOT TO USE WHAT SHE GOT TO GET WHAT SHE WANTS )
Taken from the 1971 album Chanchullo on the Tico label, Gilberto Cruz's version of James Brown’s "Hot Pants (She Got To Use What She Got To Get What She Wants)” is a perfect fusion of Latin and funk. Pressed as a flexidisc in limited quantities, Chanchullo has eluded Latin funk collectors for years. It was Cruz's debut, and it featured Sammy Ayala on vocals, Vincent Prudente on trombone, Junior Vega on trumpet, Andy Vega on vibes, Ray Armando on drums, Teddy Vatapool on bass, and Willie Rodríguez on congas.
MONGO SANTAMARIA ¬- BLACK DICE
No Latin funk compilation would be complete without a Mongo Santamaría track. During the '70s, the percussionist recorded at least one killer funk track per album. “Black Dice” is from Live at Yankee Stadium, which also featured a much sampled drum break on “Coyulde.” Ramón 'Mongo' Santamaría was born in 1922 in Havana, Cuba. After moving to the U.S. in the '50s, he played with Tito Puente and scored a national hit with his version of Herbie Hancock's “Watermelon Man.” He is also known as the composer of the Latin jazz standard “Afro Blue.”
HARVEY AVERNE ¬ - DYNAMITE!
What a treat. Harvey Averne's amazing “Dynamite!,” coupled with the previously unreleased “Stablishment” (yes, the spelling is correct.) Averne began his career as an accordionist, learned to play the vibes from Larry Harlow, and then recorded a series of crossover albums for Fania Records in the Latin soul, funk and boogaloo genres. Later, he founded his own label, Coco Record. “Dynamite!” is culled from the 1968 session The Harvey Averne Dozen.
TNT BOYS -¬ I'M GONNA GET TO YOU YET
The TNT Boys were Tony Rojas and Tito “Big T” Ramos. They recorded a series of albums for Cotique in the late '60s and early '70s before disbanding and launching reasonably successful solo careers. Tito Ramos had a massive hit with “Big T,” from the album Where My Head Is At on Fania Records, whereas Tony Rojas recorded for Rico Records. ”I'm Gonna Get To You Yet” is from Símbolos Sexuales / Sex Symbols on Cotique. This 1969 album also featured the “Tighten Up” soundalike “Música Del Alma,” as well as the heavy descarga “Jala Jala.” It is still regarded as their rarest LP.
FANIA ALL STARS ¬- THERE YOU GO
The Fania All Stars featured a mixture of bandleaders and musicians from the Fania Records stable in a series of concerts from 1968 onwards. The band's first couple of albums, Live At The Red Garter, Volumes 1 & 2, were slow sellers. Live At The Cheetah, Volumes 1 & 2, on the other hand, became the biggest selling concert albums ever produced by one Latin group. In 1974, Latin Soul Rock bucked the trend with one side recorded live, this time at Yankee Stadium, and the other one devoted to studio recordings. It is from this side that we chose a cover of Edwin Starr's “There You Go.”
RALFI PAGAN ¬- LA VIDA
Vocalist Ralfi Pagán was raised on the lower East side of New York, and was a key part of the '70s salsa movement. He released four albums with Fania, most of which contained ballads such as the Bread cover “Make It With You.” “La Vida" is taken from the psychedelic funk album I Can See.
CHOLLO RIVERA AND THE LATIN SOUL DRIVES ¬- I GOT THE FEELING/TENGO SENTIMIENTO
Produced by Cotique label boss George Goldner, the only release by Chollo Rivera and the Latin Soul Drives is a classic slice of Latin soul and boogaloo. This version of James Brown's “I Got The Feeling” has been on DJ want lists for a long time. The record itself sold poorly, even though it was pushed heavily by New York's leading Latin DJ Dick Ricardo Sugar, who wrote the liner notes of the original LP.
SEGUIDA ¬ - FUNKY FELIX
Latin rock big band Seguida released two albums with Fania during the '70s-- both produced by Larry Harlow. Entitled Love Is....Seguida, the first one contains “Funky Felix,” along with other Latin funk, rock and soul tracks. Released in 1976, On Our Way To Tomorrow embraced the burgeoning New York disco sound and is an underrated gem. After 30 years of inactivity, the band recently reunited to record Seguida III for its own, independent label.
JIMMY SABATER ¬- KOOL IT
Legendary timbalero Jimmy Sabater was featured on what is considered by many to be the first salsa record ever: Joe Cuba's Stepping Out, from 1962. He was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents and grew up in the same neighborhood as Tito Puente and Willie Bobo. Sabater was an essential part of the Joe Cuba group until 1979-- he even wrote the smash “Bang Bang.” From the 1970 Tico LP El Hijo De Teresa, we chose the heavy funk instrumental “Kool It.” Sabater is still active in music, currently performing with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
AZUQUITA Y SU ORQUESTA MELAO ¬ - GUAJIRO BACAN
Luis Camilo Argumédez Rodríguez was born in Panama and nicknamed Azuquita (Little Sugar) at the beginning of his career, his voice is as sweet as sugar. He lived in Puerto Rico and trained with legendary sonero Ismael Rivera before moving to New York, where he became a key member of the Fania Records family. Culled from the 1975 album Pura Salsa on the Vaya label, “Guajiro Bacán” is a slow burning funk number. The LP was produced by Bobby Marín and featured Kako, Mauricio Smith, Louie Ramírez, Adalberto Santiago, Jimmy Sabater, Steve Berrios, and Joe Beck.