Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Gato Barbieri: Latino America

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Regardless of his subsequent and future transgressions, Gato Barbieri deserves a lifetime’s worth of slack for his work between 1965 and ’75. The Argentine tenor saxophonist’s legacy from that decade is significant: fruitful associations with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden’s original Liberation Music Orchestra, and Dollar Brand; his Flying Dutchman discs (particularly The Third World); the soundtrack for Last Tango In Paris; and the Impulse! dates, from which the two-disc Latino America is compiled. Originally issued as the LPs Chapter One and Chapter Two, this body of work is arguably Barbieri’s greatest achievement (a case can be made for Tango, one of the most memorable film scores of all time), as it sensitized U.S. jazz fans to South American music and culture in an unprecedented manner, and contributed significantly to both the globalization of jazz and the articulation of world music.

Most of the material features a 12-piece ensemble Barbieri assembled in Buenos Aires in ’73 that included several musicians playing such indigenous instruments as the quena (a wooden flute), the arpa India (a simple harp), the charango (a ten-string ukulele-sized instrument), bombo Indio (a set of ten tom toms) and various percussion instruments. The contrast between the indigenous instruments and the contingent of trap drums and electric guitars and basses provided a bracing backdrop for Barbieri’s full-throttle delivery of his propulsive motivic themes. The ensemble’s unflagging rhythmic vibrancy sustained a feverish pulse on such extended workouts as “Encuentros” and “La China…,” while its exotic timbres underscored the smoldering heat of Barbieri’s romanticism on such lyrical pieces as “India.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.