Legendary percussionist and bandleader Ray Barretto, one of the leading figures of the Latin jazz movement that exploded in New York in the late 1940s, died Feb. 17 in Hackensack, N.J. He was 76.

Legendary percussionist and bandleader Ray Barretto, one of the leading figures of the Latin jazz movement that exploded in New York in the late 1940s, died Feb. 17 in Hackensack, N.J. He was 76.

Born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents, Barretto was a virtuoso conguero and a fixture in New York's fertile Latin jazz scene, equally at ease as a sideman, frontman and session player. He recorded and played with greats like Red Garland (he received guest billing on the cover of "Manteca"), Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Stitt.

Barretto also had a prolific solo career, which spanned more than 50 albums. His profile rose following the release of his 1962 album "Charanga Moderna," whose single "El Watusi" spent several weeks on the Billboard charts.

He also released several albums on Fania in the label's glory days, and became a key member of the Fania All Stars. He would later record extensively with his New World Spirit sextet on Concord, issuing albums that explored jazz, soul and Latin music. His albums "Taboo" (1994) and "My Summertime" (1998) received Grammy nominations for best Latin jazz performance.

Barretto's career continued unabated up until the time of his death. Just last year, Barretto released "Time Was-Time Is" on O+ Music.

Barretto's health had been fragile since the beginning of the year, when he underwent a quintuple bypass operation in New Jersey. He was hospitalized Jan. 30 with post-surgical complications and pneumonia, according to a statement.