It was through working with Charlie Haden’s on his album Liberation Music Orchestra that Gato Barbieri first met Bob Thiele. Gato played tenor saxophone and clarinet, while Bob produced Liberation Music Orchestra. This would be one of the final albums Bob Thiele produced for Impulse. He was about to leave Impulse, the victim of the musical equivalent of a musical coup d’tat. So he was looking for innovative artists to sign to his new label, Flying Dutchman Productions. This would be no ordinary label though.

Through working with some of the most innovative and creative musicians in the history of jazz, Bob must have realised that often, large record companies aren’t the best environment for innovative and creative musicians. Often, these musical mavericks didn’t thrive within such an orthodox environment. Their creativity is restricted, meaning they’re unable to experiment and innovate like they’d like. This was the environment a musical maverick like Gato Barbieri needed. Gato Barbieri and Flying Dutchman were a match made in musical heaven.

Having watched Gato play on Liberation Music Orchestra, Bob Thiele realised here was a hugely talented artist with a big future ahead of him. Bob was familiar with Gato’s debut album In Search Of The Mystery. It had been released on ESP, who were supportive of free jazz. So would Bob’s new label Flying Dutchman. It would become synonymous with not just free jazz, but pioneering music. That was all to come. Back in 1969, Bob was starting signing artists. One thing Flying Dutchman didn’t have was a star saxophonist. This was where Gato Barbieri came in.

Bob Thiele signed Gato Barbieri to Flying Dutchman label. His Flying Dutchman debut would be The Third World, which was recently rereleased by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. The Third World would be the first of five albums Gato Barbieri recorded for Flying Dutchman. From 1970sThe Third World, through 1971s Fenix, 1972s El Pampero and 1973s Bolivia and Under Fire, Gato was on a roll. He released some of the most ambitious and pioneering jazz music of the early seventies. The album that started this of was The Third World. Before I tell you about The Third World, I’ll tell you about Gato’s life and career.

Born in Rosaria, in the Santa Fe province of Argentina, Gato Barbieri was born into a family of musicians. With both parents talented musicians, fate dictated that Gato would follow in their footsteps. Like many other jazz musicians, Gato learnt the clarinet. He spent five years mastering the clarinet, alto saxophone and learning to write music. Ironically, the clarinet was just a gateway to the more glamorous saxophone. Especially when played by Bird.

Hearing Charlie Parker blow his saxophone was like a eureka moment. Now life and music made sense. Gato was a late starter when he switched from clarinet to tenor saxophone. He was already twenty. Other musicians were already playing professionally. No matter. These other musicians weren’t as determined as Gato. 

For the next few years, determinedly, Gato set about mastering the tenor saxophone. It was all about honing his own unique sound. The one advantage Gato had, was he could already play the alto saxophone and could read and write music. His determination paid off. Soon, Gato was a member of legendary Argentinian pianist Lalo Schifrin’s band. That proved to be a stepping stone for Gato.

Soon, Gato headed for America. It was not just the land of the free, but the home of jazz. The time Gato spent here allowed him to be fluently play what he referred to as American jazz. What he meant by that, was it was what American musicians perceived as jazz. Jazz in South America or Europe was different. The jazz he played in America was “American” jazz. There was acknowledgment of South American, African or European influences. Having tasted American jazz, Gato headed to Europe.

After traveling around Europe, Gato landed in Rome. He decided that would his home for some time. During his stay in Rome, he came across a number of jazz musicians. Many of them had left America and called Europe home. This included a number of pioneers of free jazz. Among them, was Don Cherry, who was a member of the legendary Ornette Coleman’s band. Soon, Gato was a member of Don Cherry’s band and played on the sessions for his 1966 albums Symphony For Improvisers and Complete Communion, which are perceived as two of the most important free jazz albums. This was the start of Gato’s career as a musician.

The following year, Gato released his first album as bandleader. In Search Of Mystery, which was released in 1967, was the first album from The Gato Barbieri Quartet. Gato also recorded Obsession in 1967, which wasn’t released until later. Until then, Gato was busy working as a sideman and bandleader.

During 1968, Gato was a member of The Jazz Composers Orchestra. He played on their eponymous 1968 album. Innovative and groundbreaking, it took free jazz to another level. So did The Gary Burton Quartet’s 1968 album A Genuine Tong Funeral. The other album Gato played on during 1968, was Hamba Khale with Dollar Brand. As a jazz duo, they proved the perfect foil for each other. Working with different, progressive and talented artists helped improve and hone Gato’s playing. 

Through 1969, Gato continued playing on other artists albums. He played on Alan Shorter’s album free jazz album Orgasm. Gato was one of the most talented musicians of his generation. His talents were always in demand. One man who gave him a call was Charlie Haden. He asked Gato to play on his album his album Liberation Music Orchestra. It just so happened to be produced by Bob Theile, who was about to leave impulse, where he’d been responsible for some of the most important and groundbreaking music of the sixties.

Bob Thiele was no stranger to Gato’s music. Working with Gato on Liberation Music Orchestra only reinforced what he knew. Gato Barbieri was a talented and innovative musician, one who was capable of pushing musical boundaries to their limits. This was apparent on Gato’s debut album In Search Of The Mystery. With Bob  looking for artists for his new label Flying Dutchman, Gato fitted the bill. After all, Bon needed a superstar saxophonist. He found him in Gato Barbieri, who he signed to Flying Dutchman. Now work could begin on Gato’s debut album The Third World.

For his Flying Dutchman debut, Gato got to work. The result was The Third World, which features four tracks. Two of these tracks are entitled Medley. Opening The Third World is Medley, which features Introduction, Cancion Del Llamero and Tango. Introduction is written by Gato, Anastasia Quiroga wrote Cancion Del Llamero and Astor Plazzola wrote Tango. Next up is the Sergio Ricardo composition Zelao and then Gato’s second contribution Antonio Das Mortes. Closing The Third World is another Medley of Heitor Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras and Dollar Brand’s Haleo and the Wild Rose. These tracks became The Third World.

Recording of The Third World took place on 24th and 25th November 1969. The band included a rhythm section of drummer Beaver Harris and bassist Charlie Haden. Percussion came courtesy of Richard Landrum, while Lonnie Liston Smith played piano and Roswell Rudd played trombone. Gato unleashed his fiery tenor saxophone,flute and added vocals. Producing this all star band on The Third World was Bob Thiele.

On the release of The Third World in 1970 it was critically acclaimed. Bob Thiele had found his saxophone superstar. Word was out and spreading about Gato’s inventive, potent and fiery playing. This was the beginning of the most productive and innovative periods in Gato’s career. The album that started this of was The Third World, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening The Third World is the three part Medley. An eleven minute epic, it features Introduction, Cancion Del Llamero and Tango. Stabs of probing piano join a reverberating, thoughtful bass on Introduction. Above a light, airy flute cascades. Then as Cancion Del Llamero unfolds, it gives way to a heartachingly beautiful vocal. It’s as if Gato’s laying bare his soul. Just a bass accompanies Gato. Despite this understated combination, it proves hugely effective. From there the piano, bass and growling horns unite. The ethereal beauty of the horn is central to Tango’s beauty and success. You can’t help but submit to its charms. As it unfolds in waves, as Gato’s playing becomes fiery, intense and emotive. What follows is an innovative free jazz tour de force. Impassioned, emotive, soul searching and beautiful are just a few ways to describe Gato’s performance.

Drums roll. They’ve an urgency. Zelao which Gato penned, is about to reveal its secrets. Hi-hats hiss before clunky percussion joins. They march towards you, before urgent stabs of piano usher in the saxophone. It’s as if everything has been building up to Gato’s grand entrance. His playing veers between mellow and thoughtful, before playing with power and passion. He toys with you, before unleashing another blistering performance. In Gato’s hands, the tenor saxophone comes alive, as he pushes the instrument to its limits and beyond. His playing is innovative, inventive and impassioned.

Just the rhythm section play a samba beat as Antonio Das Mortes unfolds. Atop the arrangement Gato unleashes a scorching saxophone. Again, he plays as if his very life depends upon it. Sometimes, though, Gato holds back. He plays with control and care. The result is beautiful and emotive. Then he kicks loose, determined to push musical boundaries to their limit and beyond. The rest of his band compliment Gato with their rhythmic delights.  They play around Gato, while he takes centre-stage. Gato pushes himself to the very edge. Despite that, he never once looses control. Then towards the end, it’s all change. It’s as if a calm has descended. Granted Gato briefly Gato kicks loose. That’s akin to a burst of emotion. Mostly, however, we hear a much mellower side to Gato Barbieri, a true free jazz virtuoso.

Closing The Third World is Medley, a two part piece consisting of Bachianas Brasileiras and Haleo and the Wild Rose. Another eleven minute epic, it bookends the album perfectly. The two parts are very different. That’s apparent straight away on Bachianas Brasileiras. Flourishes of piano accompany the sultriest of saxophones. It’s one of his best performances. Seductive and heartachingly beautiful, it heads towards a dramatic climax. From there Gato weaves into Haleo and the Wild Rose. Poignant and posing questions the music is melodic and mysterious. Then for one last time, Gato unleashes another blistering performance. That’s still to come. Before that, Gato accompanied by cascading flourishes of piano, plays with finesse and subtlety. You sense what’s about to unfold and are neither surprised nor disappointed. Sheets of blazing saxophone are unleashed. Gato plays with ferocity, passion and control, before Gato clam descends and a mellow, understated arrangement reveals itself. This proves the perfect was to close The Third World.

The Third World was Gato Barbieri’s debut album for Flying Dutchman. His debut album, In Search Of Mystery, had been released on ESP, a label who were supportive of free jazz. So were Flying Dutchman. They had an advantage. Founder Bob Theile was determined to provide the best environment for innovative and creative musicians. Often, these musical mavericks didn’t thrive within such an orthodox environment. Their creativity is restricted, meaning they’re unable to experiment and innovate like they’d like. The environment Bob Thiele was creating was what a musical maverick like Gato Barbieri needed. 

With the perfect environment for creating groundbreaking music, Gato Barbieri released The Third World, which was recently rereleased by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records.  Suddenly, Gato had arrived. He made the step from sideman to bandleader with ease. He did what a good bandleader does, and inspire those around him. He drove them on to greater heights. Gato was an inspirational leader, one who could command the respect of his band members. These weren’t just any musicians. No. They were some of the best jazz musicians.

This included a rhythm section of drummer Beaver Harris,  bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Lonnie Liston Smith. Percussion came courtesy of Richard Landrum. They were responsible for The Third World’s glorious rhythmic delights. Throughout The Third World, Gato inspired his all-star band. After all, he was an inventive, innovative and influential musician.That describes Gato Barbieri perfectly.

Throughout The Third World, Gato combined the energy of free jazz and his Latin heritage. This may have been an unlikely pairing, but one that worked. The Third World was critically acclaimed. Critics hailed Gato as one of the most ambitious and inventive musicians. Others described his as a creative maverick. No wonder.

Throughout his time at Flying Dutchman, Gato Barbieri rewrote the rulebook. His playing style was unique, fierce, blazing and dramatic. Gone is the image of the stereotypical saxophonist. Gato Barbieri is more like a gunslinger than traditional jazz saxophonist. Playing with his inimitable style, this rebellious musical maverick got results. Proof of this is The Third World, where maverick jazzman Gato Barbieri comes alive. Gato plays as if his very life depended upon it. Playing with power, passion and emotion, The Third World is a rhythmic free jazz epic that launched the most successful, productive and innovative period in the career of a true jazz maverick, Gato Barbieri.


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