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La Cuna

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Album Review

Producer Creed Taylor has inspired everything from praise to anger among jazz fans. His work has been brilliant at times, detrimental at others (his worst flaw being a tendency to overproduce). Taylor plays a mostly positive role on La Cuna, a jazz-oriented effort uniting Ray Barretto with such first-class talent as Tito Puente (timbales) and the late Joe Farrell (tenor & soprano sax, flute). As slick as things get at times on La Cuna (originally released on vinyl by Taylor's CTI label and reissued on CD in 1995), Taylor wisely gives the players room to blow on everything from the haunting "Doloroso" and the driving "Cocinando" (a piece by Carlos Franzetti that shouldn't be confused with Barretto's major salsa/cha-cha hit) to a somewhat Gato Barbieri-ish take on Mussorgsky's "The Old Castle." Barretto successfully moves into soul territory on Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise" (which rapper Coolio recast as his hit "Gangsta's Paradise" in 1994). Barretto may hate the term "Latin jazz," but make no mistake: La Cuna is one of his most memorable contributions to that genre.


Born: 29 April 1929 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Salsa and Tropical

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

While Ray Barretto's congas have graced more recording sessions than virtually any other conguero of his time, he has also led some refreshingly progressive Latin jazz bands over the decades. His records often have a more tense, more adventurously eclectic edge than those of most conventional salsa groups, unafraid to use electronics and novel instrumental or structural combinations, driven hard by his rocksteady, endlessly flexible percussion work. This no doubt reflects Barretto's wide range of...
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La Cuna, Ray Barretto
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