Mr. Hardhands himself, Barretto is perhaps the most prolific conga player ever, helping to make the instrument a needed tool for the jazz ensemble's arsenal. As an accompanist, Barretto forges the most solid grooves, repeating a hard-slapping pattern over and over with the utmost rhythmic perfection -- but given a chance to fill or solo, he introduces exciting new rhythms and syncopation to fire up a track. His session work includes dates with Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie and Cannonball Adderley, among many others. He's also in top form as a Latin player -- for a while he led the masterful Salsa of Fania All-Stars, injecting rock and soul elements. This might be what makes him so special: Barretto is never afraid to draw on eclectic sources. In a sense, he has always been the one to make the unconventional the norm.