Gato Barbieri

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Gato Barbieri
Barbieri in 1970
Barbieri in 1970
Background information
Birth nameLeandro Barbieri
Born(1932-11-28)November 28, 1932
Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina
DiedApril 2, 2016(2016-04-02) (aged 83)
New York City, US
  • Musician
  • bandleader
Instrument(s)Tenor saxophone
Years active1961–2016

Leandro "Gato" Barbieri (November 28, 1932 – April 2, 2016) was an Argentine jazz tenor saxophonist who rose to fame during the free jazz movement in the 1960s and is known for his Latin jazz recordings of the 1970s.[1] His nickname, Gato, is Spanish for "cat".[2]


Barbieri in 1999

Born to a family of musicians, Barbieri began playing music after hearing Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time". He played the clarinet and later the alto saxophone while performing with Argentine pianist Lalo Schifrin in the late 1950s. By the early 1960s, while playing in Rome, he also worked with the trumpeter Don Cherry. By now influenced by John Coltrane's late recordings, as well as those from other free jazz saxophonists such as Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders, he began to develop the warm and gritty tone with which he is associated. In the late 1960s, he was fusing music from South America into his playing and contributed to multi-artist projects like Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra and Carla Bley's Escalator over the Hill. His score for Bernardo Bertolucci's 1972 film Last Tango in Paris earned him a Grammy Award and led to a record deal with Impulse! Records.[1][3][2][4]

By the mid-1970s, he was recording for A&M Records and moved his music towards soul-jazz and jazz-pop. Caliente! (1976) included his best-known song, a rendition of Carlos Santana's "Europa". Caliente! and his follow-up album, Ruby Ruby (1977) were both produced by fellow musician and label co-founder, Herb Alpert.[5]

Although he continued to record and perform well into the 1980s, including composing the scores to films such as Firepower (1979) and Strangers Kiss (1983), the death of his wife Michelle led him to withdraw from the public arena. He returned to recording and performing in the late 1990s, composing original scores at the behest of friend Bahman Maghsoudlou for Amir Naderi's Manhattan by Numbers (1991) and Daryush Shokof's Seven Servants (1996). The album Qué Pasa (1997) moved more into the style of smooth jazz.

Barbieri was the inspiration for the character Zoot in the fictional Muppet band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.[6]

On April 2, 2016, Barbieri died of pneumonia in New York City at the age of 83.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Barbieri married his first wife Michelle in 1960. She was also his manager and musical confidant. She died in 1995 after a 10-year battle with cancer. During that time, Barbieri stopped recording and touring to care for her. After her death, he went back to play and met his second wife, Laura, who gave birth to his son Christian, in 1998.[8][9]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Don Cherry

With Gary Burton

With the Jazz Composer's Orchestra

With Alan Shorter

With Charlie Haden

With Carla Bley and Paul Haines

With Oliver Nelson

With Antonello Venditti

  • Da Sansiro A Samarcanda' (1992)[11]

With Letizia Gambi

  • Introducing Letizia Gambi (Via Veneto Jazz, 2012)[12]


  1. ^ a b Ginell, Richard S. "Gato Barbieri Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Smith, Harrison (April 4, 2016). "Gato Barbieri, Grammy-winning saxophonist heard on 'Last Tango in Paris' score, dies at 83". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  3. ^ Kreps, Daniel (April 3, 2016). "Gato Barbieri, Latin Jazz Great, Dead at 83". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  4. ^ "Gato Barbieri, Latin Jazz Saxophonist, Dies at Age 83". Billboard. Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  5. ^ "A&M Barbieri to make Canada debut" (PDF). RPM. February 5, 1977. p. 18.
  6. ^ Gupta, Anika (October 2008). "The Woman Behind Miss Piggy". Smithsonian. ISSN 0037-7333.
  7. ^ Keepnews, Peter (April 2, 2016). "Gato Barbieri, Latin Jazz Trailblazer With a Saxophone, Is Dead at 83". The New York Times. p. A20.
  8. ^ Keepnews, Peter; Mele, Christopher (April 3, 2016). "Gato Barbieri, Latin Jazz Trailblazer With a Saxophone, Is Dead at 83". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  9. ^ HARRINGTON, Richard (April 10, 2002). "At 67, Sax Man Enters New Phase of Life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  10. ^ "Gato Barbieri – El Gato (1975, Vinyl) - Discogs". Discogs. 1975. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  11. ^ "Modena by Gato Barbieri, Antonello Venditti – Track Info | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  12. ^ "Introducing Letizia Gambi – Letizia Gambi | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.

External links[edit]