Gato Barbieri

The Shadow of the Cat

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According to the press biography disseminated with advance copies of Gato Barbieri's Peak Records debut, The Shadow of the Cat, he was nearing 70 at the time of this release (previous published accounts would have put him at only 67) and this is the 50th album on which he is either featured or is the leader. One cannot, then, reasonably expect the old cat to have learned new tricks. Nor has his new label required him to; the company, run by contemporary jazz guitarist Russ Freeman, specializes in a melodic, commercial style of jazz. Producer Jason Miles (whose previous clients include Miles Davis and Luther Vandross) seems to have aimed at re-creating the sound of Barbieri's mid-'70s albums for A&M Records, even to the point of enlisting trumpeter Herb Alpert (the "A" in A&M) as a prominent guest ("Para Todos [For Everyone]" finds Barbieri and Alpert dueling pleasantly) and having Barbieri recut his signature tune, "Last Tango (Theme From Last Tango in Paris)." A bevy of other smooth jazz artists also sit in, including the company head, of course, along with some percussionists enlisted to give the album the appropriate Latin flavor. Buoyed by such support, Barbieri sounds good, soloing warmly throughout the disc, and maybe that's the real story here -- that, at some point in his late sixties, the veteran musician, bedeviled by health and emotional problems for much of the 1990s, is back to playing in his most appealing style in the 21st century.

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