Master conguero Ray Barretto and salsa queen Celia Cruz had already worked together on the 1983 session Tremendo Trío, which found them teaming up with Puerto Rican sonero Adalberto Santiago. Five years later, towards the end of 1988, la guarachera and Barretto recorded the delightful, no-frills salsa session that you hold in your hands. The quality of the songwriting and the excellent production values of "Ritmo En El Corazón" gained the album a Grammy award in 1990. ...MORE >
Master conguero Ray Barretto and salsa queen Celia Cruz had already worked together on the 1983 session Tremendo Trío, which found them teaming up with Puerto Rican sonero Adalberto Santiago. Five years later, towards the end of 1988, la guarachera and Barretto recorded the delightful, no-frills salsa session that you hold in your hands. The quality of the songwriting and the excellent production values of "Ritmo En El Corazón" gained the album a Grammy award in 1990.
Historically speaking, this is a fascinating session. It was recorded during the very last days of the Fania heyday-- it is, in fact, one of the company's last albums to shine with the same kind of majestic feeling that defines the label's classic sessions of the '70s and early '80s.
By the late '80s, Cruz was getting ready to embark on the next (and last) phase of her career, favoring a poppier sound and experimenting with new formats such as hip-hop on a string of commercially successful albums recorded for the RMM and Sony labels.
Barretto's career was also in something of a transition. The Nuyorican percussionist had abandoned the more progressive side of salsa that characterized seminal sessions such as The Message and Indestructible. He would eventually abandon tropical music altogether and shine with smaller instrumental combos in the Latin jazz arena.
"Ritmo En El Corazón," then, offers a stark contrast to the stylistic directions that both of its protagonists would follow in the future. The album is made up of eight salsa jams, bubbly and concise, devoid of any grand artistic pretensions or excessive soloing. In fact, there is not a single instance in the entire collection where you can hear Barretto's congas stand out from the meticulously orchestrated ensemble-- a testament to the late bandleader's decision never to position himself on the foreground.
Barretto's focus on this session was musicality, explains Jimmy Bosch. The trombonist was 29 years old when he participated in the "Ritmo" session. This was the third of five albums that Bosch recorded with Barretto, the first one being Todo Se Va Poder in 1984.
I think this record was a way for Ray to tip his hat off to the great Celia, he adds. He wanted to make sure that she had a great platform from which to sing, on a record that he could call his own.
Celia's vocal chops shine throughout. On the opening “El Chisme”, she delivers a typical Afro-Cuban anecdote, condemning a woman with a weakness for idle gossiping. The swing is relentless, culminating in the title track, with Celia singing the infectious line si hay ritmo en el corazón/la música es para siempre. If there's rhythm in the heart/Music will always live on.
Indeed, the genius of both Barretto and Cruz lives on through this underrated gem of an album. Bosch, who recorded the entire session live in the studio with a band made up of mostly young players, remembers working with the conguero with love and affection.
When we played live, Ray would try to cue the band out of a tune, he recalls. And every time he tried to do that, I would start to play another moña. I know that he loved the energy and the drive of it all. Every once in a while, though, he'd look at me and say: "I'm going to kill you, Bosch."
Ray Barretto – Leader, Conga
Hector Zarzuela – Trumpet
Steve Gluzband – Trumpet
Angel Fernandez – Trumpet
Jimmy Bosch – Trombone
Ricky González – Piano
Sal Cuevas – Bass
Jimmy Delgado – Timbales
Carlos Soto – Bongo
Chorus – Adalberto Santiago, Ray Saba, Felo Barrios
Producer – Ray Barretto
Executive Producer – Jerry Masucci
Recorded at – Key Productions
Engineer – Irv Greenbaum
Arrangements – Ricky González (“Para Decirte Adios”, “Mala Suerte”, “En Que Quedamos”, Bambarakatunga”, “Ritmo En El Corazon”), Angel Fernandez (“El Chisme”, “No Me Cambie Camino”, “Tu Musica Popular”)
Original Album Photography – Ed Brown
Original Album Graphic Design – Izzy Sanabria