Ray Barretto’s songs are cinematic. Artfully composed, richly orchestrated, each one feels like something deserving of big-screen wonderment. And, indeed, from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (“Ritmo Sabroso”) and Oliver Stone’s JFK (“El Watusi”) to Lee Daniels’ Precious (“Teacher of Love”) to Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (“Cocinando Suave”), his music as a bandleader made it into movies of major importance across the decades. Of course, you don’t need to be a card-carrying cinephile to appreciate the moods and magnitudes expressed by his work, especially his seminal 1968 album Acid for Fania Records.
It takes more than a minute into "Acid" before Barretto begins showing off on the congas, leading into a nearly three-minute solo marked by fabulous flourishes that culminates with the full band, including pianist Cruz, showing their united might. Elsewhere on Acid, the group would have dutifully jumped headfirst into this mode, but here it is just a spectacular finish to a rhythmic story — Barretto’s story — told like the best film you’ve never seen.