Monday, April 4, 2016

Gato Barbieri - 1976 - Caliente!

Gato Barbieri 

01. Fireflies 5:28
02. Fiesta 5:07
03. Europa (Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile) 4:27
04. Don't Cry Rochelle 4:55
05. Adios - Part I 0:33
06. I Want You 5:53
07. Behind The Rain 5:37
08. Los Desperados 6:15
09. Adios - Part II 0:59

Bass – Gary King
Drums – Lenny White
Guitar – David Spinozza, Eric Gale, Joe Beck
Keyboards – Eddy Martinez
Keyboards, Synthesizer – Don Grolnick
Tenor Saxophone – Gato Barbieri
Percussion – Cachete Maldonado, Mtume, Ralph MacDonald
Strings – Alan Shulman, Alfred Brown, Charles McCracken, David Nadien, Harold Kohon, Harry Cykman, Harry Glickman, Harry Lookofsky, Matthew Raimondi, Max Ellen, Max Polikoff*, Paul Gershman, Theodore Israel
Trombone – David Taylor, Paul Faulise, Wayne Andre
Trumpet – Bernie Glow, Irvin Markowitz, Marvin Stamm, Randy Brecker

Believe it or not, this Argentinian-born saxophonist spent his early years playing in the jazz avant-garde with the likes of Don Cherry. But for all his free-form experiments, "the Cat" hit his stride with this pristine piece of seminal pop-jazz. His emotional, warm-blooded playing, gritty-sweet tone, and Latin-laced grooves slide down smooth and easy. Covers of Santana's "Europa (Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile)" and Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" remain faithful to the originals' vibe, yet take on a seductive Spanish accent thanks to Barbieri's expressive tenor and a battery of Latin percussion. Elsewhere, hip-swiveling rhythms and tuneful arrangements of cuts like "Fiesta," "Behind the Rain," and "Los Desperados" simply simmer. Drummer Lenny White kicks down a rock-solid beat, percussionists Ralph MacDonald and Mtume add the spice that's funky and nice, and producer Herb Alpert (of Tijuana Brass, and the "A" in A&M Records) polishes the proceedings to a glossy sheen with colorful orchestrations and silky strings.

...And some can enjoy both. People, people. Music never has to be an either/or proposition. It's not the Angels vs. the Yankees for crying out loud. Believe me, I have plenty of Monk, Mingus, Coltrane--even Ornette--in my collection, but that doesn't stop me from digging this masterpiece by Gato Barbieri.
I first heard "Caliente" in 1978, when I was 11 years old and more into rock than jazz. This was the album that taught me that string-sections are not necessarily anathema to 'cool' music--that is, when they are there for a specific colorative purpose, and not merely to add a calculated 'easy-listening' gloss. Not once, from the first time I listened to the LP to today when I own it on CD, have I ever questioned the essential artistic 'rightness' of the strings or anything else that appears on this beautifully arranged album.
And what a wall of sound. There's Barbieri's trademark passionate wail, of course. But it rides on a thick brew of funky, percolating keyboards: clavinet, electric piano, acoustic piano, and synthesizer; rock, jazz and Brazilian-tinged acoustic and electric guitars (along with seventies-era effects pedals); popping, driving, brooding electric bass; Latin percussion; propulsive drumming; and, yes, brass, strings, the whole enchilada--all being played by the top studio musicians of the day with a chemistry and inspiration that makes me wonder what kind of Amazonian extract was being passed around. I can't think of any other record to compare it to, and I doubt there are any. I'm not sure if even Gato, his wife, and Herb Alpert knew what they'd pulled off, because, sadly, they weren't able to do it again. (I was greatly disappointed by the follow-up album.) In the end it's just one of those 'moment-in-time' things, both for the listener and the artist. I happened to be in the perfect receptive mood when I first heard "Caliente," and Gato & Co. were in a perfect creative space when they made it.
I recommend this to open-minded individuals who enjoy music they can dive into and drift away on. It is alternately hot, cool, romantic, exuberant, dark, earthy, spicey, and playful. Put it on some late evening when you are by your lonesome and feeling moody.