Gato Barbieri At The Blue Note
|Gato Barbieri At The Blue Note|
The Cat In The Hat Is Back
|17 April 2001|
What a memorable night it was at the Blue Note! The cat in the hat was back. We’re not talking about Dr. Seuss. The hatted cat in question is the sax master from Argentina, Gato Barbieri. The Blue Note played host for three weeks to Latin jazz superstars, and Gato appeared the first week. The two weeks following would belong to Eddie Palmieri and his Latin jazz band, and the undisputed queen of Latin music, Celia Cruz, accompanied by maestro Johnny Pacheco. However, this was Gato’s week, and did he ever take it!
He came onstage in his trademark black fedora, black scarf, red sweater, black slacks and carrying one mean tenor sax. Gato’s sound is sensual and hard driving, and we’ve been listening to it since the early 70’s. I recall a friend’s description: Gato makes the saxophone bleed.
I’ve not seen Gato in person in a long time. I’m happy to say that he sounds even better than when I first heard him some 30 years ago. This he worked with a quintet. My partner and I were impressed with his percussionist, Frank Colon, with his incredibly quick and creative beat. Gato would turn to him in acknowledgement every time he brought the rest of the band up to the same energy level. Gato never announced any of the numbers. He would simply approach the mike to shout, “Hey! Whoa! Ahora! Che!” among an assortment of sounds as another aspect of his trademark style. Gato and the band played number after number, non-stop.
Much has happened to Gato Barbieri in the last six years, unfortunately not good. His wife Michelle of 35 years died in 1995. Gato also underwent triple bypass surgery that same year. However, after a few months of recovery, he was back on the road again, an indication of his tremendous spirit.
This was by far the best Gato performance I’ve ever attended. The music just gets better and better, and so vibrant that I danced in my chair. His explosive style and engaging manner had the audience spellbound. Gato played some of his classics, as well as several pieces from his recent CD, Che Corazon. The sound is fresh, joyful and at times very soothing. Gato’s greatest claim to fame is the score to The Last Tango in Paris, for which he won a Grammy. I’m delighted he’s back and sounding so phenomenally good. Viva Gato Barbieri! Hey, there’s always great music at the Blue Note. Get on down there and get yourself some of it!
CD101.9 Celebrates Valentine’s Day with Al Jarreau
What a treat it was for me to see Al Jarreau in person after following his career at a distance for so many years. I was so excited about the opportunity that I called the station to secure my tickets the moment I learned of the concert. I knew the show would sell out quickly, and it did. An electric anticipation filled the Beacon Theatre. The evening began with Euge Groove, a new West-Coast sax lead group, the guitarist and percussionist having been borrowed from Al Jarreau’s band. A little too John Teshish for my taste, but the audience seemed to enjoy it.
After a brief intermission came the moment for which I’d waited 27 long years. Al Jarreau appeared onstage in black jeans, a pullover and a beret, doing what he does best, scatting, vocalizing, strutting, bending forward and upright again to an a cappella beat, followed by his band members going through the same motions. The audience erupted into thunderous applause. We knew from that moment we were in for a special evening. The crowd was still going wild as the band stood in line strutting stage-front with Jarreau in the middle directing the a cappella scats — the coolest entrance I’ve ever seen. The band walked over to their respective instruments, the drummer initiated the first number, and the jamming began. They played many of Jarreau’s biggest hits. Al is an incredible performer. He’s holds the audience in his hand. He sang one song after another, stopping only to drink something and amuse the crowd.
His voice is unique and awe-inspiring. I don’t know of anyone in music, movies or the theater who can vocalize and scat with the speed, precision and ease that Al Jarreau has at his command. As he’s vocalizing, he pantomimes playing a saxophone with a tremendous array of keys with the same speed and precision as his singing. The man’s in a class by himself. The onstage energy — dancing and strutting back and forth, side to side — is unbelievable. It’s truly difficult for me to grasp that on the day following he’d be celebrating his sixty-first birthday! I was flabbergasted when he made the announcement. He looks to be in his early 50’s. Likewise amazing is the demanding worldwide concert schedule he maintains.
The evening was not without its Valentines Day’s magic. Al Jarreau called to the stage a young lady, a member of his staff. He spoke to the audience about a romance which had blossomed on their tour in Germany between his guitarist and his road manager. Al Jarreau passed the microphone to his guitarist and, as he spoke, the audience caught on to what was about to happen. Al instructed the guitarist to get on his knees, and the man complied. There in that traditional posture he proposed marriage to the young woman, who was visibly shocked. She didn’t respond right away and members of the audience began asking whether she had said anything. She looked out into the audience and said Yes! The couple hugged and kissed, and the audience erupted in jubilation.
A special evening it most certainly was. No one was disappointed. The performers closed with the theme from “Moonlighting.” The encore song, “We’re in this love together,” was more than appropriate to the occasion. If you hear that Al Jarreau is performing anywhere near you, do yourself a favor and go catch the show. You’ll be better for it. Thanks, CD101.9, for a memorable Valentine’s Day.
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