Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Music for the World: Gato Barbieri- Latin America (Chapter One) 1973
Oh, Gato. What a treasure.
For readers only familiar with Mr. Barbieri through his molten work of romantic genius on the original soundtrack for Last Tango in Paris, the wonderful news is that this sly Argentinian cat has a phenomenal body of work at least comparable to, if not greater than in some cases, the 70's output of such other spiritual/fusion giants as Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Joe Henderson, or Don Cherry, to name a few.
If you are only familiar with his relatively successful commercial stabs at sexy Latin-disco-jazz, such as Caliente! or Tropico, then please be reassured that his prolific early/mid-70's output is another universe entirely. Not that those later records don't have a trashy appeal and some great sax sex solos.
But perhaps no LP from that golden period is as indispensable as Chapter One: Latin America (though Bolivia, with Lonnie Liston Smith, is perhaps my favorite-- but we'll get to that one some other day). The first and best of four Latin America albums, for these sessions Gato headed down to Brazil to record with a bevy of locals (or, as the album copy puts it: "an astonishing aggregation of Third World musicians") on varied instruments such as: quena, Indian harp, charango, anapa, erke, siku, erkencho, bombo Indio, cavaquinho, a large field of samba drums, pandeiro, quica, and agogo, once again to name a few.
The sound is overall quite in line with Gato's other work from this period as a bandleader or composer, with a "spiritual" openness and attention to atmospheric textures-- and a lot of the native instruments are employed more along those lines, indicating an exotic Latin cosmos bursting with incidental musical details all along the edges of Gato's forceful but always-sensual blowing (though I have to say, the flutes do a lot of heavy lifting, especially on "India"). The whole LP is surprisingly both tight and expansive, with uncommonly exquisite compositions (the opener, "Encuentros", and side two's "La China Leoncia Arreo la Correntinada Trajo Entre la Muchachada la Flor de la Juventud" especially) and arrangements (the absolute all-time great and album highlight, "India"). Of course, the saxophone work at center stage is beyond superb.
This is a giant masterpiece of 70's jazz. Indispensable.
LATIN AMERICA (320)