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Guillermo Barreto (a.k.a. “El Loro”, a.k.a. "Barretico"), (born, Havanamarker, Cubamarker, August 11, 1929 – died, 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.

Early career

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.

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 necessary to explain American jazz music for his band mates to play.


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.”

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

Bebo Valdes (piano); Virgilio Vixama, Rafael 'Cabito' Quesada, Gustavo Mas (saxophone); Alejandro 'El Negro' Vivar, Luis Escalante (trumpet); Generoso Jimenez 'El Tojo' (trombone); Enrique 'Kike' Hernandez (bass guitar); Rolando Alfonso (congas), Amelita Frades, Amado 'Guapacha' Borcela, Eddy Alvarez, Fernando Alvarez, Miguelito Cuni, Omara Portuondo, Orlando Vallejo, Pacho Alonso, Pio Leyva, Rolando LaSerie, Celeste Mendoza (vocals), Tata Guines (tumbadora), Papito Hernandez (bass), Gustavo Tamayo (guiro), Frank Emilio Flynn (piano), Orlando Lopez (bass), Guillermo Valdes (tumbadora, bongo), Carlos Emilio (electric guitar).

Friends with another younger Cuban drummer, Hilario Duran, (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.

Partial Discography

  • Complete Recordins 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 Valdes (1952-1962) – CCD 904\
  • Frank Emilio/Guillermo Barreto: Algo Bueno – CCD 515
  • Mongo Santamaria and His Afro-Cuban Drum Beaters – CCD519
  • Combo Sibony: Descarga Latina (1966 Recordings) - CD Discmedi 059
  • Tumbao Cubano: Cuban Big Band Sounds, Palladium PCD 5160
  • Grupo Cubano De Musica Moderna: EGREM LP 3101 (1959)


External links

  • YouTube: With Orq. Musica Moderna 1966 "Mano a Mano" [848451]


  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

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