Gato Barbieri: In Search of the Mystery (2009)
This is not dinner music, nor is it Last Tango in Paris, though there are actually hints of tango flitting around the mix. This is Gato Barbieri with a little extra scream in his step, moving out in the free vein of the '60s avant-gardeloud, brash, unpolished and unapologetic. Showing the influence of his work with Don Cherry, Barbieri brings tons of energy to this 1967 ESP session, which finds him conversing with an unusual sparring partner in Calo Scott, playing an electrified cello.
Barbieri's big tone takes on an electric note too, as he plays with an intensity to rival the guitars of the day. His horn sounds like it's turned all the way up, and takes on a wickedly distorted feeling when he reaches for the extremes of the instrument, which is often.
The two tracks are separated into two sections, which aren't easily discernable to the ear. The music itself reaches fervent highs, ebbs a bit, then reaches on up again. The differing sections mix haunting beauty with explosive free expression. At certain points, Barbieri's tone and choices are gorgeous; packed with a sense of ballsy exploration. At others, his sound jolts like prolonged electroshock. The inspiration occasionally loses out to repetition, as the sax takes the same line up again and again, hitting shrieking multiphonics. Often it charges things up nicely, but not always.
The standout moments occur when Scott and Barbieri lock into moments of deep conversation, repeating lines to each other, or sweeping the music up to a majestic, devastating high. "Obsession No. 2 / Cinemateque" features sections of almost classical beauty; still touched by the shock and awe of free music.
Drummer Bobby Kapp also has a chance to shine in the second track, with a pair of extended solos that get the blood thundering with storms of polyrhythm. Hints of tango dance freely amidst the cacophony of "In Search of the Mystery / Michelle." Scott seems to suffer a little in the mix, but his striking pizzicato opening creates an almost mystic air for Barbieri to caress, before tearing into the music with growing intensity.
While it's not music for everyone, it's exciting to hear Barbieri with all his growls, screams, and squalls. The music is always original, always personal, and always in search of something just out of sight. That it never finds the answers keeps the sound so fresh, and makes listening to it a truly unique experience.
Track Listing: In Search of the Mystery / Michelle; Obsession No. 2 / Cinemateque.
Personnel: Gato Barbieri: tenor saxophone; Calo Scott: cello; Norris Jones "Sirone": bass; Bobby Kapp: drums.