Believe it or not, this Argentinian-born saxophonist spent his early years playing in the jazz avant-garde with the likes of Don Cherry. But for all his free-form experiments, "the Cat" hit his stride with this pristine piece of seminal pop-jazz. His emotional, warm-blooded playing, gritty-sweet tone, and Latin-laced grooves slide down smooth and easy. Covers of Santana's "Europa (Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile)" and Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" remain faithful to the originals' vibe, yet take on a seductive Spanish accent thanks to Barbieri's expressive tenor and a battery of Latin percussion. Elsewhere, hip-swiveling rhythms and tuneful arrangements of cuts like "Fiesta," "Behind the Rain," and "Los Desperados" simply simmer. Drummer Lenny White kicks down a rock-solid beat, percussionists Ralph MacDonald and Mtume add the spice that's funky and nice, and producer Herb Alpert (of Tijuana Brass, and the "A" in A&M Records) polishes the proceedings to a glossy sheen with colorful orchestrations and silky strings.
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