In his early days, Gato Barbieri was a fiery improviser who rarely held back his emotional intent to play music that was less interested in formal structure. While not to the level of Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, or John Coltrane, you could hear he was striving for that type of expressionism. Accompanying the young Argentine tenor saxophonist is a unique collection of musicians including the legendary cellist Calo Scott, bassist Sirone, and drummer Bobby Kapp. While the string players swim around the rhythms of Kapp, Barbieri dives right in with no fear of the outcome, allowing the others to stretch into harmonic and sonic arenas of their own choosing. This democratic approach enhances the music without need for time signatures, although a sense of free-style bop does work its way into the pieces. Sirone, in his pre-Revolutionary Ensemble days, is startlingly fresh, setting the pace for those fellow bassists like Malachi Favors, Cecil McBee, Ronnie Boykins, and Fred Hopkins to follow in the '70s. Scott's famed work with Eric Dolphy only scratched the surface of what he accomplished in this group, and what Diedre Murray would forge as a disciple in the next decade. Barbieri is on fire for the most part, but tends to snuff out the flames; then he roars back to life for most of these two extended improvisations. The difference in these tracks is both stark and subtle, as "In Search of the Mystery" and "Michelle" start low-key with Scott's bowed cello, then roar free and spiritual à la Coltrane, go off in free-bop style with intensified high-pitched wails, and offer up solos from the string players. This in-and-out concept is further advanced during "Obsession #2" and "Cinematique," in that Barbieri's squawking tones are matched in time by the wafting cello of Scott, Sirone's insistent bass, and the roiling drumming of Kapp. This clearly is visceral, forceful, and powerful creative music. A no-holds-barred drum solo and the uncomplicated blowing session mindset of the performers keep things ever interesting, whether a bit calmed or angered up. As Barbieri's work with Don Cherry and Karl Berger, his acclaimed Latin American albums for Impulse!, and his commercial work bear stark contrast, this unique recording is the one that ostensibly started it all, and must be considered one of his prime -- if not primal -- early works.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
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