Ray Barretto, a Grammy-winning Latin jazz percussionist known for integrating the conga drum into jazz, died Friday, officials said. He was 76.
Barretto had undergone heart bypass surgery in January and suffered from pneumonia, said George Rivera, a friend and family spokesman. He died at Hackensack University Medical Center with his wife and two sons by his bedside.
“He was suffering too much, so the Lord took him,” Fidel Estrada, a family friend, told The Associated Press in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said news of Barretto’s death was met with great sadness.
“He left us a great musical legacy of humility, love and fullness that should be emulated to serve as an inspiration for the benefit of future generations,” the governor said in a written statement. “We give thanks to God for the opportunity to have celebrated his music, and the happiness that characterized all of his life.”
Barretto won a Grammy for best Tropical Latin performance in 1989 for the song “Ritmo en el Corazon” with Celia Cruz.
The following year, Barretto was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame, and last month, he was named one of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters of 2006, the nation’s highest jazz honor.
Barretto’s “Time Was — Time Is,” released last September, was nominated for a Grammy this year as Best Latin Jazz Album.
His 1979 album “Ricanstruction” is considered one of the classic salsa recordings.
Barretto grew up in New York City listening to the music of Puerto Rico and to the jazz of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman.
In the late 1950s, he played in Tito Puente’s band, and his popularity grew in the New York jazz scene. Over the years, he recorded with such musicians as Cannonball Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, Cal Tjader and Dizzy Gillespie.