Jazz percussionist RAY BARRETTO died today (17FEB06) after suffering from pneumonia. He was 76.

Barretto had also undergone heart bypass surgery last month (JAN06). He died at Hackensack University Medical Centre with his wife and two sons by his side.

Credited for introducing the conga drum into popular use, Barretto was awarded a Grammy for best Tropical Latin performance in 1989 for the hit RITMO EN EL CORAZON with Celia Cruz.

The gifted New Yorker was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1990, and last month (JAN06), he was honoured by the National Endowment for the Arts' Jazz Masters of 2006, America's highest jazz accolade.

Barretto was a mainstay in Tito Puente's band during the 1950s, and also worked with jazz legends including DIZZY GILLESPIE and CANNONBALL ADDERLEY.