The great Nuyorican percussionist, bandleader and composer Ray Barretto (Mr Hard Hands) retains a huge legacy, greatly influencing many percussionists and Latino jazz artists, and standing as a towering figure in the landscape of salsa music.
He was checking out the bebop scene in the late '40s and honing his chops before getting the tap to play with Charlie Parker. He then worked in Tito Puente's band for four years in the late '50s. In the '60s he was a first-call percussionist for sessions at various jazz labels (Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside, etc), as well as playing with Herbie Mann. He started his own bands and had a big charanga/boogaloo hit with "El Watusi" in '61.
He recorded several strong albums for Tico and United Artists before signing to Fania in '67. His classic late '60s records for the label were a very hip mixture of various Latin styles (especially some burning descargas) and psychedelic soul. He recorded a bunch of massive albums for the label through the '80s with some successful detours to Atlantic and CTI. His later albums concentrated on his jazz sextet, recording albums for Concord, Blue Note and others.
The music he played in his career covered a lot of ground: swing, descarga, mambo, charanga, soul, progressive salsa, boogaloo, disco, fusion, Afro-Cuban, psychedelia, pop and more. One of the most recorded congueros in the sessions, he contributed to the albums of Red Garland, Charlie Byrd, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderley, Lou Donaldson, Lockjaw Davis, Gene Ammons, Yusef Lateef, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Cobham, Quincy Jones, Celia Cruz, Weather Report, Sheila E, Rolling Stones, Bee Gees and of course the Fania All-Stars, among many others. Along with Dizzy Gillespie, Cachao, Chano Pozo, Sabu Martinez and others he could rightly be considered among the fathers of Latin Jazz.