Percussionist and bandleader Ray Barretto traveled down two distinct roads during his illustrious career: Latin music and jazz. In the Latin music world, he played with legendary bands during the late '50s and made contributions as a bandleader during the '60s charanga and Latin soul craze. He was also a key contributor to the salsa explosion of the '70s. Latin music gave Barretto many awards and worldwide recognition. But the percussionist had chosen a different road earlier in his career, a road that began with bebop sessions held in Harlem during the late '40s. ...MORE >
Percussionist and bandleader Ray Barretto traveled down two distinct roads during his illustrious career: Latin music and jazz. In the Latin music world, he played with legendary bands during the late '50s and made contributions as a bandleader during the '60s charanga and Latin soul craze. He was also a key contributor to the salsa explosion of the '70s. Latin music gave Barretto many awards and worldwide recognition. But the percussionist had chosen a different road earlier in his career, a road that began with bebop sessions held in Harlem during the late '40s. By the '50s, he was playing with such legendary jazz musicians as Gene Ammons, Lou Donaldson and Sonny Stitt, becoming one of the busiest congueros in jazz.
The remastering of The Other Road signifies the resurrection of one of the most important albums in Barretto's career. The record was part of his lifelong connection with jazz, but at the same time, it was a huge detour, made at the height of fame during the '70s salsa craze. During an interview with Latin Beat magazine that took place in May of 2003, Barretto explained how this detour came about. “In 1973, about half of my band left me to form the group Típica 73," he said. "Once again, I had to readjust and reconstruct my band. In the meantime, I convinced Massuci to let me record a jazz project. We recorded it in one night, from midnight to 6 a.m. It became a cult classic, but the masses, the media and the music industry totally overlooked it.”
The Other Hand is indeed a cult classic. It marks the intersection of Barretto’s two musical roads, his first Latin jazz record, an organic integration of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz. Barretto selected musicians who had mastered both formats: flutist Art Webb; Manny Durán, a Mexican-American trumpet and flugelhorn player; Edy Martínez, a talented keyboardist and arranger from Colombia; and Guillermo Edghill, a Panamanian bass player and graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. This album also saw the Latin debut of an acclaimed fusion drummer: Panama's Billy Cobham.
This great ensemble of musicians recorded a cohesive fusion of Cuban rhythms, jazz improvisation and funky accents. “The Other Road” is a funkyfied cha cha cha with a beautiful central melody and an exquisite Fender Rhodes solo by Martínez. Monk’s standard “‘Round About Midnight” is played as a bolero-jazz that builds up, swings, and turns into a bossa nova beat. “Lucretia the Cat” is well-crafted Afro-Cuban jazz with a fiery horn vamp and tasty solos by Webb and Martínez. Cobham’s propulsive energy culminates in a solo supported by Barretto in the background.
“Oración (The Prayer)” is the most adventurous cut here. It is mostly in 6/8, but develops with interesting changes in moods, textures, and tempos. Right in the middle, it goes as “free” as jazz can get, before returning to the main melody. “Little Thing” is funky Latin jazz and features a solo by Barretto where he trades with Cobham. “Abidjan Revisited” is a jazzed up version of the self-penned composition that he had recorded in Hard Hands.
Barretto’s detour into Latin jazz may have disappointed his broad salsa fan base, but it may be of more lasting significance than many of his more popular tropical albums. It has stood the test of time, and is a must-have for Latin jazz aficionados and fans of one of the most influential congueros in music history.
Roberto Rodríguez – Trumpet
Joseph Román – Trumpet
Manny Durán – Trumpet, Fluglehorn
Eddy Martínez – Fender Rhodes Piano
Guillermo Edghill – Electric Bass
Ray Romero – Timbales
Tony Fuentes – Bongos
Arthur Webb – Flute
Billy Cobham * - Drums
Ray Barretto – Conga, Talking Drum, Chinese Bell-Tree
* Billy Cobham appears courtesy of Atlantic Records
Producer – Ray Barretto
Executive Producer – Jerry Masucci
Recorded at – Good Vibrations Sound Studios, NY
Engineer – Jon Fausty
Arrangements – Eddy Martínez (“The Other Road”, “Abidjan Revisited”), Dick Mesa (“Round About Midnight”), Manny Durán (“Lucrecia The Cat”, “Oración (The Prayer)”), Luis Cruz (“Little Thing”)
Original Album Design – We-2 Graphic Design, Inc
Original Album Illustration – Walter Vélez
Original Album Art Direction – Izzy Sanabria
Original Album Photography – José Florez