Gato Barbieri

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About Gato Barbieri

Tenor sax luminary Gato Barbieri was one of the first South American musicians to make a significant impact on jazz internationally and among the most recognizable saxophone soloists of his era. Born and raised in Argentina, he had a signature tone that was influenced by early American mentors Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler—both muscular and melodic, guttural but sensitively phrased. In the late '60s, Barbieri contributed to landmark free-jazz-informed recordings by Carla Bley and Charlie Haden before venturing out on his own. As a bandleader, he incorporated a more distinct Latin influence into his music on visionary records like 1971’s Fenix and his greatest claim to fame, the award-winning soundtrack to Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial 1972 box-office smash, Last Tango in Paris. These releases bridged the gap between Barbieri’s early-period experimentalism and the smoother world jazz which would soon become his default stylistic mode. His pop crossover status was cemented with a hit Herb Alpert–produced cover of Santana’s “Europa” on 1976’s Caliente!. After dabbling in fusion in the early ‘80s, Barbieri underwent triple bypass surgery and disappeared from public life, resurfacing for some stray releases and soundtrack work in the late 1990s. He died in 2016 at 83.

Rosaria, Santa Fe, Argentina

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