Gato Barbieri

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Gato Barbieri

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Here is yet another chapter in Universal's exhaustive -- and often exhausting -- 20th Century Masters collection. What is great about these CDs is the price. They are budget, and usually feature enough of an artist's hits to satisfy the most casual consumer. But real fans of an artist have to go far beyond these to get a truly representative picture. This volume under Argentinean saxophonist Gato Barbieri's name is a case in point. Basically, this set should be called "The A&M Years." Simply put, these ten cuts come from three of Barbieri's records for the label. Given that Universal also owns the Impulse! catalog, leaving tracks from that period off of here is inexcusable and ultimately makes a partial fiction of the artist's career. While the tracks from Caliente!, Ruby, Ruby, and Tropico showcased Gato at a particular high point in his career (commercially), they offer no real context of how he got there or his more enduring contribution to jazz. Simply put, this is inexcusable. Fans of his more fusion-oriented groove and Latin material will already have all of this -- these albums are all budgets anyway. Why not just issue authoritative remasters of the albums themselves and offer fans something new and definitive? There are many who discount the A&M material in favor of the Columbia sides -- rightly or wrongly. Barbieri was an innovator and remains a very soulful and accomplished player. This hastily assembled collection does nothing to either speak to his contribution or underscore his reputation, and will appeal to only the smallest niche of smooth jazz fans overall. While including some of the Impulse! titles would have made for a truly compelling document, Universal just plain dropped the ball and slapped together something utterly cynical and unnecessary.

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