1992's Ancestral Messages marks a new phase of album for Ray Barretto. Deeply immersed in both Latin jazz and the New York salsa scene, Barretto has issued some of the most provocative and forward thinking Nuyorican Soul albums in the canon. Ancestral Messages is an exploration in rhythm, harmony, and melody, of the twists and turns Latin jazz has made in its evolution since bebop. With his current band, New World Spirit, Barretto and his septet move through a series of soul-jazz classics (Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance"); tough extended harmonic moves such as "Killer Joe" by Benny Golson; originals by Barretto and band members Ray Vega and Hector Martignon; and couple of Latin jazz classics such as Chico Mendoza's "On A Sunday Afternoon," to bring home the terrain where the Latin dance crazes of ages past meets Harlem-street-corner-fingerpopping and the modern jazz club. Nowhere do these things intersect so perfectly as they do on the Golson cut, Barretto's steaming yet pastorally beautiful "Song For Chano," and Vega's son-drenched "New World Spirit." The interaction between soloists is lean, tough, and drenched in seductive melodic invention. Rhythmically, Barretto makes the organic transcendent, even on a ballad such as the old nugget "Beautiful Love." Of all of the work Barretto has done since the end of the '70s, this one reveals a stunning and moving new direction in sound in general, and in Latin jazz in particular.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek