Gato Barbieri: El Sertao
Gato Barbieri (tenor sax)
Bolivia/Under Fire (RCA/Bluebird)
Moulay Ali Hafid (dumbeg).
Composed by Gato Barbieri and Sergio Ricardo.
Recorded: New York City, 1971
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
It's a shame that Barbieri, after rediscovering his South American musical roots in the '70's after flirting with the jazz avant-garde the decade earlier, never got to hook up with his fellow Argentinian Astor Piazzolla. The modern concepts and powerful lyricism of both artists might have produced a fruitful collaboration, but when Bernardo Bertolucci chose Barbieri instead of Piazzolla to compose and play the music for his 1973 film Last Tango in Paris (Piazzolla reportedly wanted too high a fee), a verbal feud ensued between Gato and Astor. Be that as it may, the Last Tango soundtrack made Barbieri an international star (at least for a while), enabling him to expose many more listeners to his bracing potion of jazz and Latin melodies, rhythms, harmonies, and textures.
Barbieri's 1973 release, Under Fire, focused on Brazil, and the title of the piece "El Sertao" referred to the dry, poverty-stricken northwestern part of that country. Stanley Clarke's resounding bass ostinato, Lonnie Liston Smith's trills, and John Abercrombie's insistent chords are the first sounds heard, in addition to Airto Moreira's zestful rhythmic colorations. Barbieri plays the multi-faceted thematic material with a hard-edged, virile tone, but is able to convey elements of warmth and tenderness as well. Despite an intense, nearly screeching attack at times, on the whole his phrasing maintains an alluringly melodic consistency of expression. Smith's Fender Rhodes interlude is sparse but tonally poignant. Abercrombie's strummed pattern leads to Barbieri's climactic crescendo and decrescendo. This track is an example of Barbieri stripped of all the turbulent and distancing free jazz affectations he had exhibited but a few years earlier. He had found himself at last.
Reviewer: Scott Albin