Gato Barbieri – Calente!: Dumpster Dive Diamond

By Jim Welby

By CatchGroove

I have seen this album for years and never picked it up.  Barbieri has an interesting history – he first made his name in the free-jazz world.  But if you ever heard this album you would never believe it – this is absolutely pop jazz.

This album was produced by Herb Alpert (the A in A&M and a pop jazz legend in his own right with the Tijuana Brass).  Alpert pulls several pages out of the CTI playbook – strings, soul jazz, an all-star band – but most significantly walking the tightrope of going as pop as you can without falling off into bad taste.  Creed Taylor of CTI made this balancing act a high art form and created soul jazz in the process.

I got into Gato a couple of years ago when I fell in love with a straight jazz album of his called Fenix.  I started picking up more and finally picked this album up at a used record store in mint condition for a buck (I recently picked up the CD too for a buck at the Rock Sale)   I had seen this record so many times over the years – I am amazed I never picked it up.  This was a bit of hit when I was big into to jazz rock in the late 70s – not sure how I missed it.

So what is this is like?  Imagine Grover  Washington Jr. with a Latin kick.  It has the funk and the great horn playing – a bit edgier than Grover, but not enough to make the connection to Barbieri’s free-jazz past.  Gato does a killer cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Want You.”  He does a very sexy and seductive cover of Santana’s “Europa” (see video – which features Carlos himself – he is not on the album).

The album credits read like a who’s who of jazz/rock/funk: Lenny White, Eric Gale, Ralph McDonald, Mtume, to name a few.  The only thing that keeps this album from being a total soul jazz classic is the over use of saccharine strings.  All the same a hip hop beat maker would find plenty of groove gold here.  So Ignore the sappy strings and dial into the horn and the grooves.

This is my first installment of Dumpster Dive Darlings – see this post for some background of the objective of this little exercise.