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Staff Report

NEW YORK, 21 FEBRUARY 2006—Latin conga drummer Ray Barretto died on Friday 17 February at a New Jersey hospital, a family spokesman announced. He was 76.
For nearly 40 years, conguero and bandleader Ray Barretto was one of the leading forces in Latin jazz. His hard, compelling playing style graced the recordings of saxophonists Gene Ammons, Lou Donaldson, Sonny Stitt, and guitarists Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell.
Born 29 April1929, in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents, Barretto was one of the most prolific and influential Latin percussionists in the history of modern jazz. With a musical heritage as deeply rooted in the bebop jam sessions held in Harlem during the late-'40s as in his Puerto Rican ancestry, Barretto spent over four decades refining the integration of Afro-Caribbean rhythms with the improvisational elements of jazz.  Coincidentally, it was the tune "Manteca" recorded by Gillespie with Chano Pozo on percussion that drove Barretto to music.  And it was a version of that same tune that became Barretto’s first recording with Red Garland.

Few artists were as successful at fusing these two genres as Barretto. A pioneer of the salsa movement, Barretto achieved international superstardom and released nearly two dozen albums with the Fania label from the late-'60s until salsa's popularity peaked in the mid-1980's. Ray Barretto  was perhaps best known to the mainstream American public for  his 1960s hit "El Watusi".

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