Carnaval (Reissue)

Carnaval (Reissue)

Before he became the fiendishly energetic leader of the early-'70s Nuyorican movement, Ray Barretto made a slew of comparatively buttoned-up but highly sensual Latin jazz albums in the early '60s. Carnaval comprises two of the best of these efforts: 1962’s Pachanga and 1963’s Latino!. As he'd prove in the years to come, Barretto had much more to offer than sleek jazz tunes played at a cocktail-lounge volume. But as is the case with comparable masters like Marvin Gaye or John Coltrane, the intricacies of Barretto’s early work often get overwritten in appraisals of his later accomplishments. The horn sections are less visceral on these early works, which lets the interplay between piano and percussion shine through. The addition of violin and flute also gives these performances a distinct and sometimes otherworldly texture. In a few years, Puerto Ricans would be expressing their heritage with a newfound militancy, but it’s impossible to hear “Pachanga Suavecito” and not feel that Barretto had already struck the ultimate pose of exquisite style and self-composure.

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