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http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/arts/music/gato-barbieri-latin-jazz-trailblazer-dies-at-83.html

Gato Barbieri, Latin Jazz Trailblazer, Dies at 83

By CHRISTOPHER MELEAPRIL 2, 2016

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Leandro Barbieri, known as El Gato, playing the tenor saxophone at the JVC Jazz Festival in Manhattan in 2001. Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos 

Leandro Barbieri, a jazz saxophonist who was a pioneer in Latin jazz and who won a Grammy Award for his music in the film “Last Tango in Paris,” died on Saturday. He was 83.

His death was confirmed by Jordy Freed, the vice president of marketing and communications for the Blue Note Entertainment Group. Mr. Barbieri’s wife, Laura, said he died of pneumonia at a New York hospital, The Associated Press reported.

“I’m so grateful we had these 20 years together,” Ms. Barbieri told The Associated Press. She said a public memorial was being planned but details had not been finalized.

Mr. Barbieri, who was born on Nov. 28, 1932, in Argentina, recorded 35 albums between 1967 and 1982. He earned the nickname Gato, which means “the cat,” in the 1950s because of the way he scampered between clubs in Buenos Aires with his saxophone to make it to his next gig.

“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,” Ms. Barbieri said. “He was honored for all the years he had a chance to bring his music all around the world.”

A biography of Mr. Barbieri on Blue Note’s website described him as “mystical yet fiery, passionately romantic yet supremely cool.”

Though in poor health, Mr. Barbieri, still sporting his trademark black fedora, had been performing monthly at the Blue Note jazz club in New York. His last public performance was on Nov. 23, Mr. Freed said. He started performing there in 1985.

“He was a worldly free spirit, a really sweet man,” Mr. Freed said. “He really was a pioneer. He really helped pave the way for Latin jazz.”

Last year, Mr. Barbieri received a Latin Grammy lifetime achievement award for a career that covered “virtually the entire jazz landscape.” The citation, from the Latin Recording Academy, credited him with creating “a rebellious but highly accessible musical style, combining contemporary jazz with Latin American genres and incorporating elements of instrumental pop.”

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Mr. Freed said that Mr. Barbieri’s fans — and even those outside the jazz world — would most appreciate his work in “Last Tango in Paris,” which was released in 1972 and starred Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. Mr. Barbieri won a Grammy Award for his work on the film.

When the director, Bernardo Bertolucci, sought music for the steamy movie, he chose Mr. Barbieri and his characteristic tenor sax sound.

“It was like a marriage between the film and the music,” Mr. Barbieri said of the soundtrack that made him an international star, in a 1997 interview with The Associated Press. “Bernardo told me, ‘I don’t want the music to be too much Hollywood or too much European, which is more intellectual. I want a median.’”

Barbieri said tango had a special appeal because it was deeply tied to his Argentine soul.

“Always in the tango is tragedy she leaves him, she kills him,” he said. “It’s like an opera but it’s called tango.”

Correction: April 3, 2016 

An earlier version of this article and a picture caption misspelled the name of the musician. He is Leandro Barbieri, not Leonardo.


 
 


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