The final installment of Gato Barbieri's excellent Latin America series features the fire-breathing Argentinean tenor saxophonist leading a smoking international septetwith Howard Johnson (bass clarinet, flugelhorn and tuba), Eddie Martinez (keyboards), Paul Metzke (electric guitar), Ron Carter (bass), Portinho (drums) and Ray Armando (percussion)at the Bottom Line back in 1975, a time when jazz was moving in many directions. A post-Coltrane avant gardist with a firm grounding in the tenor saxophone tradition, Barbieri merged the world music of his native continent and the blossoming fusion movement into a uniquely personal mélange that remains exciting today.
The satisfying set begins with Barbieri's "Milonga Triste, a melancholy tango that showcases the leader's sensual sound swathed in an opulent textural tapestry of interwoven rhythms and tones (enriched by Johnson's superb bass clarinet backgrounds). The album's centerpiece, "La China Leoncia, an extended four-part suite by Barbieri, is constructed similarly, but unfolds even more dramatically. It begins with the composer's poetic recitation over an airy backdrop of fluttering tuba, keyboards and percussion, seamlessly segueing into the second section, which opens with Martinez's processional piano and gives way to Carter's insistent bass line and Barbieri's flamenco-inspired handclapping. Then the tenor enters, gradually building in dynamics until it shrieks and squeals fervently in the third section. Metzke's cavaquinho-styled strumming opens the final movement, where Portinho's drumming and Johnson's flugelhorn push the leader's high-energy horn.
The penultimate "Bahia spotlights Barbieri hearkening to Coltrane's '50s persona in the opening strains of a beautiful ballad (over the lush cushion of Johnson's tuba) and moving on to the master's uninhibited '60s tone (mingled with a Rollins-esque coarseness) later in the song. The final selection, the leader's "Lluvia Azul, a pretty melody first heard in a Chico O'Farrill arrangement on the previous Chapter Three: Viva Emiliano Zapata, features the whole band in an Afro-Cuban styled descarga jam that was quite novel at the time.
Milonga Triste; La China Leoncia, Pt. 1; La China Leoncia, Pt. 2; La China Leoncia, Pt. 3;
La China Leoncia, Pt. 4; Baihia; Lluvia Azul.
Gato Barbieri: tenor saxophone, guiro, voice; Howard Johnson: tuba, bass clarinet, flugelhorn,
tambourine; Eddie Martinez: piano, Fender Rhodes; Paul Metzke: guitar; Ron Carter: bass;
Portinho: drums; Ray Armando: percussion, conga.