Saxophonist Gato Barbieri dies

GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award-winning Argentinian Latin Jazz saxophonist Gato Barbieri has died aged 83 in New York.

Latin Jazz saxophonist Gato Barbieri has died in New York City aged 83.

Real name Leandro Barbieri, he was born on November 28th, 1932, in Rosario, Argentina. Famous for his trademark Fedora hat, 'Gato' is actually his nickname. It means ‘cat’, gained during the 1950s for the way he slipped between successive gigs at Buenos Aries clubs. 

Barbieri won a Grammy for his emotional score to the Marlon Brando film Last Tango in Paris, something very close to his Argentinian heart. He made over 30 albums during a career stretching over seven decades. Last year, Barbieri received a Latin Grammy lifetime achievement award and despite ill health continued to play regularly at New York’s Blue Note Club.

He switched to tenor saxophone after gaining a reputation on alto playing with Lalo Schifrin and his warm, gritty and powerful blowing style became a signature voice. Playing right across the jazz landscape, including avant garde in the 1960s with Carla Bley, Don Cherry and Wayne Shorter’s older brother Alan, he returned to his latin jazz roots and recorded new albums regularly until falling out with his record company in 1982. After this he recorded only sporadically and nothing between 1988 and 1997 after dealing with the loss of his wife of 35 years. He remarried in 1996.

His recoding 'Fiesta' became a huge favourite among young British jazz fans during the 1980s. With support from tastemaker DJs it became a cherished jazz dance piece.

“Music was a mystery to Gato, and each time he played was a new experience for him, and he wanted it to be that way for his audience,” his wife Laura said. “He was honoured for all the years he had a chance to bring his music all around the world."

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