Argentinean reed man Gato Barbieri began his career in the 1960s, looking to establish a voice that separated him from his native musical language. Having recorded twice in bands led by his mentor, trumpeter Don Cherry
, in Paris and with Italian pianist Giorgio Gaslini
's large ensemble in Milan prior to this recording, Barbieri decided to go to New York to search for another beginning. In 1967, with a group that included Calo Scott on cello, the late bassist Sirone
(née Norris Jones, among his first several sessions) and drummer Bobby Kapp (this is only his second appearance), Barbieri recorded his debut album as a leader for the established home of the New York New Thing, ESP-Disk.
In its 40 minutes, In Search of the Mystery
reveals Barbieri's unstoppable energy on tenor sax. He works mostly in the high register, climbing around the horn, seeing how far he can push the pitch. Seldom does he touch on tunefulness except to apply it as a bridge into other rousing improvisations.
His choice of band mates reveals a sensitivity to instrumentation. That he placed a cello in the ensemble required some sort of bravura because, at this point, the cello had historically, beginning with Fred Katz
in the mid-1950s, only rarely shown up in jazz groups, much less free ones (though Scott himself was featured on several albums from the late-1950s on by musicians like Gerry Mulligan
, Mal Waldron
and Ahmed Abdul-Malik
). It lends an unexpected coloration to the music, as if tenor has a shadowy transformative power following behind it. Scott's solo jaunts express the constant tempo pervading the music, bass and drums providing unshakable forward-motion undercurrents. All three instruments are given occasional solo interludes.
The last track coalesces into conclusiveness, shaped by Barbieri's two-note low-high repetitions occurring from different starting places on his horn, stating perhaps that the resolution to the mystery being sought has been found. Since this album, Barbieri's 'voice' changed drastically as he matured. In this record though, youthfully uninhibited, Barbieri simply let go.