SmokeGood DrinkGood Magazine

Music: Caliente – Gato Barbieri Smooth Jazz Experience

The more I venture into smoking different cigars my music selection and means of relaxation grows. The song Europa grabbed my attention and I had to learn more to share this amazing musicians work with people who enjoy SGDG Magazine. There has certainly been a lot of discussion over the years between jazz purists and “smooth jazz” aficionados about the merits of Caliente, but it can’t be denied that it is probably Gato Barbieri’s most commercially successful album to date. Nearly 30 years after its original issue, it still ranks near the top in sales of any Barbieri album, and the cut Europa garners more airplay than any other Barbieri song.

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The album on which a fire-breathing revolutionary transformed himself into a smooth Latin love man, under the guidance of producer Herb Alpert and associate producer Michelle (Mrs. Gato) Barbieri. The rhythm tracks are tight and funky in a facile ’70s fuzak sort of way, and Jay Chattaway’s CTI-inspired orchestrations sound dated and corny. The arrangements conspire to stifle the Third World scream in Barbieri’s raw and impassioned tenor sax tone. Yet he still manages to mate the steamy temperament of the tango with upscale funk on covers of Santana’s “Europa” and Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.”

I like the entire CD and my only real complaint is that it could stand remastering since I am always obliged to raise the volume on my player whenever I want to hear it. If I had to choose, my favorites would be Fireflies, Europa, Don’t Cry Rochelle, I Want You, and the Herb Alpert composition, Behind The Rain. Those who say that Barbieri’s Latin fire has been squelched should listen again, it is not squelched, it is merely modulated. And his band? Look at the list, they are many of the who’s who of jazz session men in the mid-seventies. And yes, many are CTI veterans.

People in general want their favorite musicians to trod familiar paths and feel disappointed or betrayed when faced with a recording sharply different than what they are used to. But some fans are content to follow that musician through the highs and the lows and allow them to stray occasionally. By straying from their original path, they are growng for better or worse. Musicians who repeatedly try to mine the same musical vein end up in facing oblivion rather sooner than later.

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Barbieri never returned to where he once was, but neither did he end up mired in commercialism. He continues to follow his muse and despite the occasional disappointing album, I’m cool with that. Prodded by his wife and producer and fellow musician Herb Alpert, Barbieri made a masterful and highly successful grab for a larger audience with Caliente.  Let’s not begrudge him that, let’s celebrate his success.

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