Gato Barbieri - tenor sax
Eddie Martinez - Fender Rhodes electric piano
Paul Metzke - guitar
Howard Johnson - bass, tuba
Ray Armando - percussion
Ray Mantilla - congas, timbales
Portinho - drums
The daring Argentine tenorman Gato Barbieri brought his raw, exotic sounds to the Carnegie Hall stage on July 3rd and took the audience on a musical journey to his homeland for his appearance at the 1974 Newport Jazz Festival. And judging by the audience response to his intensely passionate blowing, it was an unqualified success. Still riding high on the acclaim he had received from his soundtrack to director Bernardo Bertolucci's film from 1972, Last Tango in Paris, the Buenos Aires-bred saxophonist went on to freely blend jazz and traditional music from his native country (bomba rhythms, harps, guitars) on a series of four stimulating "chapters" on the Impulse! label - Latin America, Hasta Siempre, Viva Emiliano Zapata and Live in New York - and gain much acclaim in jazz circles in the process.
Opening his Carnegie concert with a tumultuous free jazz fanfare, Barbieri and his crew fall into a mesmerizing groove on "La China Leoncia" (actual title -- "La China Leoncia Arreo la Correntinada Trajo Entre la Muchachada la Flor de la Juvuntud"). This monumental work travels from free jazz outbursts to slow-grooving bolero with some melodic playing by Barbieri, culminating in some cathartic tenor blasts from the Argentine powerhouse over a percolating undercurrent that comes directly out of the Albert Ayler-Pharoah Sanders school of forceful overblowing. Part 2 of the "La China Leoncia" suite develops into a churning batucada-style breakdown between drummer Portinho and percussionists Ray Mantilla and Ray Armando that Barbieri blows over with ferocious abandon on tenor. Next, Barbieri changes up the pace with some more lyrical, probing playing on the melancholy "Marissea," which eventually develops into a driving 6/8 groover. They close their Carnegie Hall set with the exhilarating "Latino America," Barbieri's musical salute to Chile, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina and a host of other countries. And like all of the tunes on this '74 Newport Jazz Festival performance, this compelling number from his current album at the time, Hasta Siempre, is imbued with unparalleled power and unfettered emotion by the bold tenor star from Argentina.
Born in Rosario, Argentina on November 28, 1932, Barbieri picked up the alto saxophone after his family moved to Buenos Aires in 1947 and 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. Two years later they recorded Gato Barbieri & 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 musician, 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. (Milkowski)