Good Music We Can Know

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.



Holly said...

This is SUCH a great album :-)

Anonymous said...

Hah! I already have the exact same rip. Moving right along

Unknown said...

gracias siempre. Te mereces una estatua en la plaza mayor de tu ciudad

walkingtrees said...


Siphonophoros said...

Up until now I have found every Gato Barbieri album that I came across (2 or 3, including last tango) extremely cheezy. Unbearably cheezy. This is different, which brings up the question: how can a artist be at times so good and at other times so bad? I guess I still need to work on my taste; thanks for helping me along.

Feq'wah said...

Just been listening to this one...damn it's good!
Thanks, mate.

Wonkytonkman said...

Hello! I've started checking out this blog the last week or so, beaming up the odd tempting morsel. I remembered the name of the blog from something you wrote in the wake of the shutdown of the Holywarbler, when I was thrashing around in despair looking for any sign of a trail of that incredible gent. Having been off the web for a few months, I'm only now exploring the stump left in my musical life by that brutal amputation. There seem to be lots of really cool blogs there, with piles of curious tunes, but what I have been particularly enjoying about your labours here is the enthusiastic and informed writing which comes with the posts. I haven´t had much time to listen to the stuff you´ve donated, but I reckon it´s much more into the jazzy side of things than my established taste. But this is the real beauty of this setup for me personally- a chance to experiment and develop new tastes. And this is where an empassioned curator really makes the difference; sometimes I need encouragement to try something that looks a bit off, or to persevere with something that doesn´t grab me on the first spin. And many of my real favourite, life-enhancing tunes have only reached me after such a 'getting to know you' period.

Anyway, that´s basically it- you´ve started to serve a role for me as a kind of cheerleader of cultural exploration. Please do keep it up. And actually, if you would consider including the blurbs in the files, that would be great. Sometimes albums get a bit buried and I come back to them having forgotten the context of why I was interested in them. Of course, I don´t believe you can get to know a town by taking a guided tour, but a few words from the right local can help a lot. Course, I can always copy and save your intros if I´m not a completely lazy freeloader, right?

Massive respect and thanks to you,
señor Strap: may your days be many and happy!!

Flabbergast said...

Man, this album was basically my introduction to Gato's *good* stuff -- like many others I had associated him with the unfortunate cheese he dished out later. After this I started noticing he had credits on records by people like Don Cherry, and then of course I ravenously gobbled up the rest of his Latin American tetrology. You and I are in agreement about the Bolivia LP but I will always hold a soft spot for this one because I picked it up for 50 cents or some crazy price at a library sale and it blew my mind.

And to Wonkytonkman, I empathize with your sentiment but as a fellow blogger I think I also know where Señor Strap is coming from too: I often compose the text for a post after the relevant files have been assembled and sent on their way to their destinations in the aether, meaning that the full description and frequently embarrassing psychobabble in the final post is the last thing that is completed before hitting the "post" button in the blogger interface. So, yeah, feel free to save Mr. Straps fine writeups on your own iniative ;)