Ray Barretto

Eye of the Beholder

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Many pure salsa and Latin jazz fans have a difficult time with Ray Barretto's Atlantic Records period in the late 1970s because he was making a deliberate run at the crossover jazz/dance music charts. Who better to strive for such a thing? Barretto established his bona fides in jazz two decades earlier -- and returned to them time and again until the end of his life. He was also one of the prime innovators in New York's salsa explosion, and even played on pop records as a sideman. His credits are book-length. This set from 1977 has dated well. A very large cast date, it features Stix Hooper, Joe Sample, and Wilton Felder of the Crusaders, as well as a host of West Coast session players from the pop, jazz, and Latin worlds: saxophonist Pete Christlieb, trumpeter Louis "Perico" Ortiz, trombonist Garnett Brown, drummers Terry Bozzio and Angel "Cachete" Maldonado, guitarist Ray Gomez, and bassist Jeff Berlin are just a few of the players who appear. The vibe here is more jazz-funk than fusion or salsa. It features loads of keyboards to balance the percussion load, making it more accessible to non-Latin fans, though the grooves balance the smooth with the steamy. The best tracks are "Here We Go Again," Leti," and "Tumbao Africano," while "Señor Funk" and "Expresso" are fine songs as well.

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