When Gato Barbieri signed to Impulse! Records in 1973 for a series of critically lauded albums, he had already enjoyed a celebrated career as a vanguard musician who had worked with Don Cherry and Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand), recorded for three labels as a leader, and scored and performed the soundtrack to director Bernardo Bertolucci's film Last Tango in Paris. Chapter One: Latin America was a huge step forward musically for the Argentinean-born saxophonist, even as it looked to the music of his heritage. This turned out to be the first of four chapters in his series on Latin America, and for it he teamed not with established jazz musicians, but instead folk and traditional musicians from his native country, and recorded four of the album's five cuts in Buenos Aires -- the final track, a multi-tracked solo piece, was recorded in Rio de Janeiro. The music found here doesn't walk a line between the two worlds, but freely indulges them. The enormous host of musicians on the date played everything from wooden flutes to electric and acoustic guitars, bomba drums and quenas, and Indian harps and charangos, creating a passionate and deeply emotive sound that echoed across not only miles but also centuries. At the helm was Barbieri, playing in his rawest and most melodic style to date, offering these melodies, harmonies, and rhythms as a singular moment in the history of jazz. While the entire album flows seamlessly from beginning to end, the A-side, comprised of Barbieri's own "Encuentros" and J. Asunción Flores and M. Ortiz Guerrero's classic "India," is the clear standout. That said, the four-part suite that commences side two -- "La China Leoncia Arreo la Correntinada Trajo Entre la Muchachada la Flor de la Juventud" -- is a work of such staggering drama and raw beauty that it is perhaps the single highest achievement in Barbieri's recorded catalog as an artist. Simply put, this album, like its remaining chapters, makes up one of the great all but forgotten masterpieces in 1970s jazz. Thankfully, Verve has brought this set back into print on CD as part of its wonderfully mastered, budget-priced Originals series.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek