R.I.P.: Gato Barbieri

Somebody has to be first for you. When I turned 20 and got zonked by Last Tango In Paris, I discovered my jazz raver for my rocker ears — “El Gato” Barbieri. I’m not as jolted by his death as several others this year, partly because he seemed like “an old guy” (an ancient 40) when I first heard him and partly because as I grew more familiar with more free jazz players, I realized Barbieri had limited ideas and range. I knew what was coming up before I heard it. I grabbed albums religiously for years (though I never much liked the over-orchestral Last Tango soundtrack). My eyebrows went up when I pulled out the vinyl from the basement and realized I had sold all but four LPs. My first pick would be the CD reissue that combines Bolivia (1973) and Under Fire (1971), my original favorite album (it’s on Bluebird, 2002). But the real find is his work with Don Cherry on Complete Communion (1966) before Barbieri had fallen into any of his later ruts. This is the one you gotta have.

2 thoughts on “R.I.P.: Gato Barbieri

  1. I never thought of him as “old” so was surprised at the news of his passing. I first heard him on the Jazz Composers Orchestra double LP. Given his more mainstream later work it maybe now hard to appreciate the depth his avant garde roots. Definitely liked the 70’s albums you listed but also fondly remember wearing out my copy of Fenix (will have to dig that out now). As far as Last Tango, I find it impossible to think of that movie without his sustained erotic playing.

    • I should add that it was indeed the context of the movie that turned me on to him. A match of sound and image that deserved to lead his obits. I simply found that I didn’t enjoy the soundtrack qua soundtrack anywhere near as much as other work he did.

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