Gato Barbieri

Greatest Hits

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In the mid-1970s, Gato Barbieri moved from the often incendiary post-bop for which he was known to a slicker, more commercial blend of jazz and pop. Jazz critics were quick to denounce the tenor saxophonist as a sellout and tear A&M releases like Caliente and Ruby, Ruby to shreds, but in fact, some of Barbieri's pop-jazz/crossover output from that period (much of it produced by Herb Alpert) wasn't without artistic merit. Released in 1998, Greatest Hits draws on those albums as well as 1978's Tropico and 1979's Euphoria, and reminds us that pop-flavored jazz can be done tastefully. Lush recordings such as "Latin Lady," "She Is Michelle" and "Behind the Rain" aren't in a class with the great modal post-bop he'd provided for Flying Dutchman and Impulse, but Barbieri was still playing with plenty of passion, soul and creativity. Also enjoyable are the tenor saxman's seductive interpretations of Marvin Gaye's 1976 hit "I Want You" and the standard "Speak Low." Some of the material is too arranged for its own good, and Barbieri's annoying pseudo-disco take on "Poinciana (Song of the Tree)" is pure schlock. But in general, this CD (which spans 1976-1979) is decent pop-jazz with integrity.

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