Previously unheard as a bandleader, Julio Barreto has been one of Cuba's most well-received drummers of the last two decades, working as a sideman with such household names as Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Roy Hargrove, and Chucho Valdés. With the release of 2002's Iyabó, Barreto stepped into the limelight, and a bright light it was. Though undeniably Cuban in nature, the music on Iyabó has the searching quality characteristic of native players ready for exploration. The rhythm section rounded out by Manuel Orza on bass and Dany Martinez on guitar has the flexibility to reach into funk and jazz just as easily as groove en clave. Some Cuban music purists may even find this record a little too stylistically adventurous. Barreto himself is armed to the teeth with fusion chops to rival the best. He is joined throughout by trumpet player Carlos Puig and special guest Ravi Coltrane, both of whom provide deliciously silky phrasing, making them the most satisfying soloists on the record. With variety wide enough to include Jimi Hendrix covers and traditional rhumba vocalization with bata accompaniment on the disc, Barreto will have audiences impatiently awaiting his next turn as bandleader. That is, of course, if the heavy hitters of the jazz world can spare him long enough.
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AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez