[JPL] Music Review | 'A Tribute to Ray Barretto'...NYTimes

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 9 18:26:45 EDT 2006

October 9, 2006
Music Review | 'A Tribute to Ray Barretto'
All-Star Band Keeps a Hero’s Music Alive 
The career of Ray Barretto, the celebrated conga
player and bandleader, was borderless, reaching across
demarcations of geography and style. Yet Mr. Barretto
was also homegrown, a product of his community, which
has guided most of the tributes since his death in
February. A concert on Saturday night was no
exception: it emphatically claimed Mr. Barretto as a
hero of Puerto Rican culture, weaned in the Bronx and
wedded to modern salsa. 

As a career retrospective, the concert at the Lehman
Center for the Performing Arts at Lehman College in
the Bronx was less than comprehensive; as an evening’s
entertainment, it was more than compelling, even in
the Machito Orchestra’s opening set, which had sound

“I’m hearing the band a little late,” the bandleader
and percussionist Mario Grillo told the soundman.

“It’s like I’m playing on Kingsbridge and they’re in
Bedford Park,” he added, name-checking the two subway
stops closest to the Lehman College campus.

Fortunately there were no such setbacks during the
main portion of the concert, which featured an
all-star ensemble directed by the pianist Oscar
Hernández and reminiscent of Mr. Barretto’s best-loved
groups. The trombonist Jimmy Bosch joined three
trumpeters in an airtight horn section; the bassist
Andy Gonzalez held down the groove. Orestes Vilato,
Jimmy Delgado and Ralph Irizarry took turns on
timbales, while in the hot seat, on congas, was the
worthy Giovanni Hidalgo. 

Three vocalists were featured, each a veteran of Mr.
Barretto’s employ. Ray de La Paz delivered a strong
first salvo with “Guararé,” which quickly had the
crowd singing along. That was not the only moment of
audience participation in Mr. de La Paz’s miniset:
during “Vale Más un Guaguancó” he was handed a Puerto
Rican flag from the foot of the stage, and he accepted
it proudly, draping it over one shoulder. 

Tito Allen suggested a more remote charisma, gliding
onstage and breezing through a pair of familiar
themes. His voice had a silky timbre that contrasted
nicely with the interjections of the horns. And he was
generous with his spotlight: on “Indestructible” he
ceded it to Mr. Delgado, who played a deft and dynamic

Adalberto Santiago, the esteemed final singer, belted
the evening’s only true ballad — the bolero “Alma Con
Alma,” with a tenor saxophone cadenza by Chris
Barretto, Ray’s son — and brought a comic touch to
“Quítate la Máscara.” Mr. Santiago’s animated stage
presence was rivaled only by that of Mr. Bosch, whose
body, during a blaring solo on “La Hipocresía y la
Falsedad,” wobbled with the ungainly enthusiasm of a

Clave, the syncopated heartbeat of Latin music, was
naturally omnipresent in the concert. At times it
could be heard distinctly, as a repeating cadence on a
cowbell; more often it was unstated, but strongly
implied. During Mr. Hernández’s keyboard solo on “El
Hijo de Obatalá,” the crowd needed no invitation to
start clapping that song’s clave pattern with perfect

“El Hijo de Obatalá” also featured the best of several
exhibitions by Mr. Hidalgo. He had five congas at his
disposal and used them to full advantage, with
blistering runs as well as strategic accents involving
an elbow or the heel of a palm. At the song’s end, he
stretched out the tempo and cleverly riffled through a
litany of grooves, a reminder that virtuosity involves
more than technique. It was a lesson worthy of Mr.
Barretto himself.

Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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