Gato Barbieri - tenor sax; Eddie Martinez - Fender Rhodes electric piano; Roland Wilson - bass; Paul Metzke - guitar; Angel "Cachete" Malandro - percussion; Ray Mantilla - percussion; Portinho - drums
This compelling performance at Avery Fisher Hall captures Argentinian tenor and saxophonist titan Gato Barbieri at the peak of his robust powers just before he began softening his edge and going in a more commercial direction with 1976's Caliente!. In the early part of his career during the late '60s, Barbieri was decidedly in the avant-garde camp, having collaborated with iconic trumpeter Don Cherry and recording for the renegade ESP label on 1967's In Search of Mystery. His 1972 soundtrack to the Bernardo Bertolucci's film Last Tango in Paris brought his profile to another level and he followed up with a series of four musical "chapters" for the Impulse label - Latin America, Hasta Siempre, Viva Emiliano Zapata, and Live in New York.
At this 1975 Newport Jazz Festival appearance, Barbieri and his touring band of
keyboardist Eddie Martinez, guitarist Paul Metzke, bassist Roland Wilson, percussionist Angel "Machete" Malandro, and Brazilian drummer Portinho wowed the Avery Fisher crowd with their exuberant energy. Opening with the lively son montuno flavored "Viva Emiliano Zapata," Barbieri blew with the kind of raspy, coarse tones and unbridled conviction associated with the avant-garde tenor sax powerhouse Pharoah Sanders. And the battery of percussion players fueled his torrid tenor flights. Next up is a soothing take on the haunting "Milanga Triste," a piece composed by Sebastian Piana and Homero Manzi and interpreted here with uncanny feeling by the Argentine saxophonist. And though this beautiful piece begins on a calming note, Barbieri does register cathartic screams on his horn in the peak of passion throughout his moving solo.
Following a tumultuous free jazz opening, the band falls into an infectious samba groove on "La China Leonicia," which features some psychedelic wailing from electric guitarist Metzke, more forceful overblowing from Barbieri's tenor, and an authentic batucada styled breakdown from the drummers and percussionists. This dynamic suite ends with some extraordinary tenor blasts from the Argentine powerhouse. Barbieri and his exciting crew close out their Newport set with another high energy romp, an "Afro Blue" styled Latin flavored jam that showcases the saxophonist's intense chops in the altissimo register. This Newport show represents, by far, Barbieri's most intense blowing in a live setting. It also marks an end to this kind of ferocious, unrestrained wailing by the tenor saxophonist. The following year, he would score a crossover success with Caliente! and drift further into the smooth zone in his career. But this 1975 Newport concert captures him at the peak of his subversive powers.
Born in Rosario, Argentina, on November 28, 1932, Barbieri picked up the alto saxophone after his family moved to Buenos Aires in 1947, when he heard Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time." By 1953, he was a featured soloist in Lalo Schifrin's famous Argentine orchestra. Barbieri led his own groups in the late '50s, switching to tenor sax. After moving to Rome in 1962, he became involved with the avant-garde and in 1963, began collaborating with Ornette Coleman's trumpeter Don Cherry. By the late '60s, Barbieri relocated to New York and joined the Jazz Composers' Orchestra, participating in Carla Bley's epic Escalator Over the Hill.
After avoiding his own musical heritage during his early years as a professional music, Barbieri paid homage to his roots with a series of four richly rewarding recordings in the mid-1970s that investigated the rhythms and melodies of South America, beginning with the live El Pampero on Flying Dutchman and continuing with the four-part Chapter series on Impulse. After signing with Herb Alpert's A&M label, Barbieri began watering down his sound with a softer pop-jazz approach, which played out on best-selling crossover albums like 1976's Caliente! and 1978's Ruby, Ruby. He continued touring and recording through the '80s but was sidelined through the '90s following triple-bypass surgery. His most recent recording is 2002's The Shadow of the Cat. Barbieri continues to perform at jazz festivals around the world and make annual appearances at the Blue Note nightclub in New York.