I had the occasion to speak to Joe Bataan over this weekend and given that he and Ray Barretto were both at Fania Records at the same time in the mid/late ’60s, I wanted to know what Joe remembered of his old colleague:
- “We hung out together, we partied together. He had a very silent sense of humor. A tall, lanky guy, very soft-spoken. He was a gentle giant.
He had the “Watusi” that was very influential, as far as I’m concerned, because it was done in the “American” vein and it crossed [over]. One of the first records that crossed, it was a big seller. What it did, it incorporated the Blacks…the beat allowed Blacks to dance. The combination of that with the Latin feel opened it up. The Jews found the music in the Palladium with the Puentes and Palmieris but with the “Watusi” it started bring in the Blacks into the music venture of Latinos; it’s like Eddie Palmieri did with “Asúcar.” The beat and the clave is what connected for the audience. That opened the doors and that’s what gave young guys like myself [the idea] that we could do something one day.
I know he ventured into jazz a lot…he played with a lot of the jazz greats like Chano Pozo. Barretto learned from him; he was the second coming of Chano Pozo. Very influential, his sound was very distinct, his arrangements. To this day, beloved by Latinos all over the world. He will be sorely missed.” – Joe Bataan, 2/19/06