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Music steeped in Latin roots

Internationally acclaimed percussionist Ray Barretto will grace Jazz Holiday with the high-spirited, torrid sounds of Latin-jazz and salsa he has been pounding out for more than 25 years.

While Barretto's music has focused mainly on his Latin roots, over the years his conga drums have peppered the recordings of such rock groups as the Rolling Stones, the Average White Band and the Bee Gees. He also has played radio and television jingles.

But Barretto's heart and soul are devoted to jazz and those scorching Latin rhythms. Early in his career, he jammed with Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Art Blakey and other jazz giants and recorded with jazz legends Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson and others.

He joined Tito Puente's band to take Mongo Santamaria's place and left after four years to play with jazz flutist Herbie Mann.

When he left Mann to start his own six-member group, he hit it big with the recording El Watusi.

Barretto has performed all over the United States and in Africa, Europe and South America.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Puerto Rican parents, he spent his early years in East Harlem and his teen years in the Bronx. He joined the Army at 17, but soon discovered that military regimentation was not any more to his liking than the life he had left.

But the Army made it possible for Barretto's first exposure to Latin-jazz music.

"It was the turning point in my life," he has said.

One night, while stationed in Munich, Germany, he sat in on a jam session at a GI's club. While on stage, he realized that playing the drums and performing was where he belonged. From then on, music was his passion.

After three years in the Army, he returned to Harlem and began making music his life: studying percussion, jamming and recording on his way to a career that still is going strong.


Ray Barretto

at 9:30 p.m.