Gato Barbieri, the Latin jazz tenor saxophone player who won a Grammy for his soundtrack for Last Tango In Paris and charted various other albums in his recording career, died in a New York hospital yesterday (Saturday) at the age of 83. He was suffering from pneumonia after recent bypass surgery to remove a blood clot.
Born in Rosario, Argentina, Leandro “El Gato” Barbieri performed in his formative days with countryman and later noted film and TV composer, pianist Lalo Schifrin. He recorded with such jazz notables as Don Cherry and Gary Burton in the 1960s and began his own career on disc in earnest with the 1967 release In Search Of The Mystery.
Barbieri would go on to record some 35 albums in just 15 years and, for some, will always be most closely associated with his music for the erotic film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, 1973’s Last Tango In Paris. It won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition and the United Artists soundtrack spent seven weeks on the Billboard pop album chart.
That opened the door to a wider audience and solo albums by Barbieri on Impulse and then A&M, the most successful of which, 1975’s Caliente!, was certified gold in the US in 2001. His most recent album was New York Meeting, in 2010, and between 2013 and late last year, Barbieri played a monthly residency at the Blue Note jazz club in New York.
Listen to Gato Barbieri’s Caliente! album on Spotify