Ray Barretto

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Indestructible Review

by Thom Jurek

Indestructible is one of Barretto's most solidly consistent efforts, a series of Afro-Cuban rhythms and song styles illustrated by a stomping band that knows how to move the classic material in a jazz manner into improvisation and then back again. The opener, "El Hijo de Oblata," is a case in point: a piano line playing a steaming son line sets the base for the horn section to widen it; next comes the chorus on the vocal melody, propped up all around by an army of percussionists, and they all meld together before the tempo slows momentarily and slips into a five/eight Latin-tinged jazz number where the pianist takes a solo rich in arpeggios, and smooths the rough-edged rhythms out with large augmented and suspended chords. When the line begins again, it's twice as fast and the percussion section moves into overdrive with the piano so that the vocalists can barely keep up! In addition, there are gorgeous merengues here; a rumba or two; and a few more sons. Most noteworthy is the lovely and shimmering "El Diablo," with a call and response vocal that the claves and shakers and bata drums play counterpoint to. This is solid all the way through, and can only be called "salsa" in the most generic sense of that word -- there is too much other stuff going on here, too many traditional moments being banded together with jazz to gentrify this music. A true find in Barretto's vast catalog.

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