Ray Barretto (April 29, 1929 – February 17, 2006) was an American Grammy Award-winning Latin/Latin jazz musician of Puerto Rican ancestry. Barretto (whose surname is really “Barreto”; a mistake at the time Ray’s birth certificate was filed gave his last name its formal spelling) was born in New York City. His parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the early 1920s, looking for a better life. He was raised in Spanish Harlem and at a very young age was influenced by his mother’s love of music and by the jazz music of musicians such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
In 1946, when Barretto was 17 years old, he joined the Army. While stationed in Germany, Barretto met Belgian vibist Fats Sadi, who was working there. However, it was when he heard Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca” with Cuban composer/percussionist Chano Pozo that he realized his true calling in life.