Guillermo Barreto

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Grupo Cubano de Música Moderna: One of "Barretito's" longest affiliations -1959 LP photo montage.

Guillermo Barreto (a.k.a. "El Loro", a.k.a. "Barretico"), (August 11, 1929 in Havana, Cuba – 14 December 1991) was a Cuban drummer who also played timbales (a traditional charanga instrument played with sticks and hands) who was a major figure in the Cuban music scene for more than fifty years and is, debatably, the one who pioneered Cuban "Be-bop" jazz drumming.[1]

Early career[edit]

As a young man, Guillermo was an excellent interpreter of Cuban pailas (founding and playing in the group "Los Amigos") as well as a skilled interpreter of the swing music of American jazz, and as a composer and drummer with the orchestra "Obdulio Morales". He was so highly regarded that during a visit to Cuba by Stan Kenton's orchestra, Guillermo replaced an ill Buddy Rich for one night's performance.[2]

Inspired by bop drummers like Max Roach and Roy Haynes, by the early 1950s, Guillermo would organize the Sunday afternoon jam sessions (or, "descargas") at the legendary Tropicana, often doing the transcription (music) necessary to explain American jazz music for his band mates to play.[3]


As the Cuban jazz scene grew, Mr. Barreto went on to play with such popular groups as: Grupo Cubano de Música Moderna, "which quickly gained stature as a benchmark in Cuban Latin Jazz history." [4]

During the next four decades, "Barretico" played with many of the great Cuban musicians of each decade, including:

Bebo Valdés (piano); Virgilio Vixama, Rafael 'Cabito' Quesada, Gustavo Mas (saxophone), Israel "Cachao" López, Alejandro 'El Negro' Vivar, Luis Escalante (trumpet); Generoso Jiménez 'El Tojo' (trombone); Enrique 'Kike' Hernández (bass guitar); Rolando Alfonso (congas), Amelita Frades, Amado 'Guapachá' Borcela, Eddy Álvarez, Fernando Álvarez, Miguelito Cuní, Omara Portuondo, Orlando Vallejo, Pacho Alonso, Pío Leyva, Rolando LaSerie, Celeste Mendoza (vocals), Tata Güines (tumbadora), Papito Hernández (bass), Gustavo Tamayo (guiro), Frank Emilio Flynn (piano), Orlando López (bass), Guillermo Valdés (tumbadora, bongo), Carlos Emilio (electric guitar).

Friends with another younger Cuban drummer, Hilario Durán, (Hilario worked with Guillermo in the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna) in 1991, he introduced Hilario to the Canadian flautist Jane Bunnett. Both men then went on to appear on her famous Afro-Cuban inspired recording "Spirits of Havana".

Guillermo also influenced Cuban drummer, Conrado "Coky" García, amongst many others.[5]

Partial discography[edit]

  • Complete Recordings of Frank Emilio Flynn (2007)
  • Los Amigos featuring Cachaíto López - Warner Jazz (2007)
  • Bossa Cubana - Los Zafiros at EGREM Studios, 1963-1967 (1999)
  • Jane Bunnett: Spirits of Havana (1991)
  • The Best of Bebo Valdés (1952–1962) – CCD 904\
  • Frank Emilio/Guillermo Barreto: Algo Bueno – CCD 515
  • Mongo Santamaría and His Afro-Cuban Drum Beaters – CCD519
  • Combo Siboney: Descarga Latina (1966 Recordings) - CD Discmedi 059
  • Tumbao Cubano: Cuban Big Band Sounds, Palladium PCD 5160
  • Grupo Cubano De Música Moderna: EGREM LP 3101 (1959)



  1. ^ Timbale Icons From Havana to New York and Beyond – Latin Beat Magazine, November, 2001 – Luis Tamargo
  2. ^ Tommy Dorsey: Livin' In A Great Big Way: A Biography - Peter J. Levinson
  3. ^ Havana In The 1950s: Leonardo Acosta
  4. ^ Leonardo Acosta: Roots of Latin Jazz - A Century of Jazz in Cuba
  5. ^ Latin Beat Magazine, Nov, 2003 by Luis Tamargo

External links[edit]