GATO BARBIERI — Fenix (review)

GATO BARBIERI — Fenix album cover Album · 1971 · Latin Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
Generally reputed as one of Gato’s best album (along wit The Third World), Fenix is a typical early-70’s product, besides Gato and Vasconcelos, we find the great Lonnie Liston-Smith, Lenny White, Joe Beck and the inevitable Ron Carter. While Fenix is resolutely a Latin-America-axed album (all of the tracks are from the southern hemisphere), sonically-speaking, we’re in a typical early-70’s mostly-instrumental JR/F album that has a few ethnic twitches on some tracks, while others like Falsa Bahiana have a distinct bossa-nova nature. An interesting artwork, evoking the Tupac-Inca myth graces the front cover

Opening the album is the outstanding Tupac Amaru upbeat instrumental, where Beck’s glissando guitar and SLS’ Rhodes tickling are for the conga pairs, allowing Gato to glide effortlessly over the pack. The standard Carnavalito has a fairly Santana-esque feel, but Barbieri’s almost constant sax playing is walking away slightly from its model. The excellent Al Arriero features some vocals fairly low in the mix, and Gato’s sax reaches some screechy moment in the more dramatic moments. Vasconcelos’ birimbau brings a jungle feel (but more African than Amazonian, IMHO) on two or three tracks throughout the album, including the intro of the closing Bahia standard, a fitting exit to the album. However I find that Gato’s up-front sax can be saturating the album at places. After the bossa-esque Falsa and the slow syrupy (almost soppy) El Dia Que Me Quieras (where pianist SLS sounds a bit McCoy-esque) are the low-points of an otherwise good album.

While fairly interesting at times, Fenix is nowhere near the best JR/F albums of the era, partly because it lacks the energy and urgency of many of its contemporary competing albums. Still definitely worth investigating if you’re in the Latin-Fusion genre, though.
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