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Hard Hands

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Ray Barretto stayed on the cutting edge of Latin music with 1968’s Hard Hands, titled after a nickname a fan gave Barretto after the veteran conguero tapped him on the shoulder. Basically, the album is split between Latin-infused R&B and interpretations of deep Afro-Cuban rhythms. Barretto made no concessions to a mainstream white audience. This was music by Nuyoricans for Nuyoricans, and its arrival was heralded across the street corners and ballrooms of Harlem and the Bronx in the late '60s. “Hard Hands,” “Got to Have You," and “New York Soul” remain impressively rugged, and each could fit easily alongside Otis Redding’s songs from the same period. However, it was with the Afro-Cuban songs that Barretto really left his mark. Named after the Ivory Coast city, “Abidjan” is built upon a resolute bass line from Bobby Valentin; it opens up to terrific solos from timbalero Orestes Vilato. If that song proves Barretto’s interest in undiluted musical traditions, the closer “Ahora Si” is a reminder of “Hard Hands” Barretto’s gentle, even vulnerable, touch.


Born: April 29, 1929 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Salsa y 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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Hard Hands, Ray Barretto
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