By John P. Walsh
Latin jazz ballad “Beautiful Walk” is from Argentine-born saxophonist Leandro “Gato” (the “Cat”) Barbieri’s 50th album, Shadow of the Cat released in September 2002 on Peak Records. In a six-decade career (Barbieri died in April 2016 at 83 years old) Shadow of the Cat – a Grammy-nominated album for Best Latin Jazz – looked to two major sources for its inspiration: the 30th anniversary of Last Tango in Paris (1972) for which Barbieri won a Grammy Award for his film score and to Barbieri’s huge-toned, raucous yet smooth jazz-pop sound in five albums he made at A&M Records in the mid-to-late-1970’s. In November 2015 Gato Barbieri received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his music that has been described as “mystical yet fiery, passionately romantic yet supremely cool.” Around the same time, according to the Blue Note club in Greenwich Village – where the “Cat” first performed in 1985 and, still sporting his trademark black fedora hat, had been regularly performing there monthly since 2013 – gave his final concert on November 23, 2015. In 2006 Gato Barbieri was content that in his long musical career he pursued playing different musical styles – jazz, Latin, film orchestration, etc. – and did not limit himself to a single genre. “The jazz people they don’t consider me a jazz musician. If I am Latin, they don’t consider me Latin. So I am here in the middle,” he said. “It’s a good thing. You know why? Because they say, ‘What do you play?’ I say, ‘I play my music — Gato Barbieri.’”
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Gato Barbieri’s free-jazz playing in the late 1960s and early 1970s along with his audacity to blend the improvised style with a cutting-edge mining of Latin jazz in multiartist projects attracted Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci to recruit Barbieri to compose the score for his 1972 film Last Tango in Paris starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. Bertolucci was seeking his own musical blend from the young Argentine musician who could incorporate jazz, strings, and tangos into his score to embody the film’s chaos of spirit and ferocious sexuality with a nod to European intellectualism and Hollywood popularity. Gato’s musical score became an instant international sensation and professional triumph for the 41-year-old musician winning a Grammy Award for best instrumental composition in 1973.
Above: The lead track from Gato’s best-selling Caliente! album for A&M 1976. Produced by Herb Alpert (who plays trumpet on tracks in the later Shadow of the Cat) Caliente! was recorded for A&M Records in 1976, at the beginning of the peak of the jazz-fusion and disco eras. Gato Barbieri plays with sizzling heat—influenced by Sonny Rollins (b.1930), John Coltrane (1926-1967) and Pharoah Sanders (b. 1940) yet relying on tango-infused Argentine fluency. “Always in the tango is tragedy,” remarked Barbieri in 1997. “She leaves him, she kills him. It’s like an opera but it’s called tango.” Caliente! is beautifully arranged and well executed making for enjoyable listening. The concept of strings combined with rhythmic danceable funk anted up to Barbieri’s raucous sound makes Caliente! a successful primogeniture to Herb Alpert’s own instrumental Rise in 1979 which became a very big hit.
Barbieri’s 50th album, “Shadow of the Cat” released in September 2002 on Peak Records – http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-shadow-of-the-cat-mw0000225929
two sources for its inspiration… – http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-shadow-of-the-cat-mw0000225929
won a Grammy Award for his film score – http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin/7318824/gato-barbieri-dead
five albums at A&M Records in mid-to-late-1970’s. – http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/artists/gato-barbieri/
in 2015 Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award – http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin/7318824/gato-barbieri-dead
“Mystical yet fiery…” quotation – http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/artists/gato-barbieri/
First performed at Blue Note – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/arts/music/gato-barbieri-latin-jazz-trailblazer-dies-at-83.html
Perform monthly since 2013 – http://highlighthollywood.com/2016/04/latin-jazz-saxophonist-gato-barbieri-dies-at-age-83-highlight-hollywood-news/
gives his final concert – http://www.tff.gr/nea/arthro/to_teleutaio_tangko_tou_leantro_gkato_mparmpieri_vds-130329325/
“‘I play my music — Gato Barbieri’” quotation – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/arts/music/gato-barbieri-latin-jazz-trailblazer-dies-at-83.html
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