What you are holding in your hand is the last recording Ray did for the ubiquitous Fania label. Brooklyn born, El Barrio (Manhattan’s one time Puerto Rican and Cuban enclave on Manhattan’s east side) and Bronx bred, Barretto had risen from sideman in the 1950’s to superstar bandleader in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s through his association with Fania. ...MORE >
What you are holding in your hand is the last recording Ray did for the ubiquitous Fania label. Brooklyn born, El Barrio (Manhattan’s one time Puerto Rican and Cuban enclave on Manhattan’s east side) and Bronx bred, Barretto had risen from sideman in the 1950’s to superstar bandleader in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s through his association with Fania.
Beginning with his first disc with the label, ACID, Barretto established a powerful legacy of recorded work that thrilled dancers and challenged musicians. Throughout his tenure with the label he would face a multitude of adversities along with a debilitating physical injury that almost ended his career. Yet with each obstacle, he would rise like the mighty Phoenix. It culminated with a collaborative album with Celia Cruz and Adalberto Santiago for which he won his only Grammy. But as Ray had told me in a conversation, he saw the writing on the wall.
By 1985 the paradigm had begun shifting. Singers were becoming more important than musicians and the glory days of the Fania All Stars and their triumph in Yankee Stadium in 1974 seemed like an eternity away. Robert, I felt like a dinosaur. The club scene was changing and these pretty boy singers that didn’t know anything about the history of this genre, let alone clave, were producing syrupy records that left much to be desired. The arrangements were becoming watered down and the emphasis was less on the rhythm. When you castrate the drum in our music, you take away its essence. Barretto was also hearing the call of his first love. A mistress called jazz. He would form a small combo that would explore his vision of Afro-Cuban jazz, but
not before he finished this disc.
Opening with the in your face hard guaguanco drive of the title cut, the lyrics reflect the adversity Barretto has experienced throughout his life but with the satisfaction that he indeed is a righteous man. Ricky Gonzalez’s arrangement and piano work provide a great bed for the band to work off of. Of note is the crisp bongo work of Carlos Soto, Ite Erez’s explosive trumpet and Barretto’s tasty solo. “Lo Que Me Pasó En La Guagua” is a humorous double entendre guaracha about an encounter on a bus with a beautiful Black
woman framed by Angel Fernandez’s swinging arrangement.
Barretto originally envisioned the classic tango “Los Ejes De Mi Carreta” as a guajira. When Ray originally heard what I had done, status arranger Barry Olsen, He freaked out and did an about face. He wanted it at a faster tempo. I kept the Basic piano intro and the result is what you hear. The final verdict is a swinging medium tempo son montuno treatment with some slight nods to R & B.
“El Entierro Del Feo” is a humorous guaracha in a minor mood about a person who is so ugly no one dares bury him after his death. Once again Angel Fernandez provides some great twists and turns for the dancer utilizing Sal Cuevas on bass and Hector Martignón on piano. Of note is Tito Gonzalez great interpretation of the melody and soneos (vocal improvs) on this cut and throughout the album.
By this time the salsa romantica movement had started and the inclusion of “Tal Vez” on this album reflects the trend. But there is no syrupy arrangement here and no castration of the percussion. Indeed the tune features a very jazz oriented intro and ending. “Café Con Leche” is straight up-tempo guaracha and a dancer’s delight that speaks to the beauty of the mixed ancestry of Latina women the world over.
The medium son montuno “Flor De Los Lindos Campos” showcases some nice tight vocal harmony during the melody leading to an explosive montuno where Gonzalez gets to address the loss of a lover from the past. The closing swinger, “Diganme La Hora” is indeed Ray saying goodbye to his years with Fania. The lyrics ask the metaphorical question Tell me what time it is, because I have to leave. But not before Ray gives a shout out to all the key players that have come through his band and a final thank you to Fania president, Jerry Masucci.
What was salsa’s loss was jazz’s gain. But ironically, Ray confessed to me that he wanted to record one last great hard core salsa album. What that would have sounded like, only the Gods know. But there’s one thing that is certain – it would’ve been righteous.
Ray Barretto – Musical Director, Congas
Tito González – Maracas, Güiro
Ricky González – Piano
Hector “Bomberito” Zarzuela – Trumpet
Angel Fernandez – Trumpet
Steve Gluzband – Trumpet
Jimmy Bosch - Trombone
Jimmy Delgado – Timbales
Carlos Soto – Bongo, Cencerro
Salvador Cuevas – Ampeg Baby Bass
Musicians - (“Tal Vez”, “Los Ejes De Mi Carreta”, “Lo Que Me Pasó En La Guagua”)
Hector Martignón – Piano
Jose Ite Erez – Trumpet
Christ Anderson – Trumpet
Tim Ouimette – Trumpet
Barry Olsen - Trombone
Jeffrey Lopez – Timbales
Jorge Gonzalez – Bongo, Cencerro
Jaime Moreno – Electric Bass
Lead Vocal – Tito González
Chorus – Adalberto Santiago, Tito Allen, Tito González, Felo Barrios, Saba
Producer - Ray Barretto
Executive Producer - Jerry Masucci
Recorded at - Key Productions, New York City
Engineer - Irv Greenbaum
Arrangements - Angel Fernandez (“Lo Que Me Pasó En La Guagua”, “Café Con Leche”, “El Entierro Del Feo”, “Diganme La Hora”), Ricky González (“Soy Dichoso”, “Flor De Los Lindos Campos”), Hector Martignon (“Tal Vez”),
Barry Olsen (“Los Ejes De Mi Carreta”)
Original Album Artwork - Izzy Sanabria