After a very productive decade in the 70's with the movie soundtrack and releases on both the Impulse and A&M labels, Barbieri walked away from music in the 80's to take care of his wife Michelle. Six weeks after Michelle passed away, Barbieri went through his own health problems and had triple bypass surgery. He came back in 1997 to record with Columbia Records, releasing Que Pasa, the fourth highest smooth jazz recording that year. That release helped rejuvenate Barbieri's career, bringing back a fiery expression of music to his devoted fans.
Passionate about his craft, Barbieri puts just as much zest into life as he does in his music. "Music and art suffer because things in the business are not as good as before," he says. "Music opens doors to better understanding and more has to be done to nurture the arts," he urges. Unmistakable, yet unique in his own right, Gato Barbieri says, "Fellow jazz performers don't consider me a jazz player, and Latin performers don't consider me a Latin musician as well. I always change things and I can copy many people. If they want me to play Coltrane, I can play Coltrane, but still with my own signature."
Barbieri says his previous release Che Corazon was basically "a musical biography, nostalgic, about friends and family." His newest release entitled "The Shadow of the Cat" is dedicated to his mother, who he lost in 1991. "If not for you and the spark you lit in me," quotes Barbieri in the liner notes, "I would not be who I am today. There would be no shadow of the cat."
With his latest release, Barbieri bridges the past into the present, putting a new slant on such selections as his popular El Chico and Last Kiss. Barbieri says, "When I play the saxophone, I play life, I play love, I play anger, I play confusion. I play when people scream." He still plays with fervor and his audience lets him know that. He loves that fact that people still respond to his music and are touched by what he plays. He considers himself blessed that his fans have been with him for such a long time. "I'm still having fun," he says. "When I start recording, I am playing for me, but when I play a concert, I play for them."
"The Shadow of the Cat" is a kind of homecoming for Barbieri, working again with legendary trumpeter, Herb Alpert, who recorded five of Barbieri's most popular releases back in the late 70's. He says that he and Alpert have become very good friends throughout the years and states "he has played even better as he got older."
Alpert plays on three tracks in The Shadow of the Cat. "Alpert was very happy to participate," said Barbieri, but it was not Barbieri who got Alpert in on the project. "It was producer Jason Miles," he said. Jason Miles has produced releases for Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, and tributes to Ivan Lins and Grover Washington Jr., getting Alpert to play on some of those tracks too. Miles was also instrumental in working out Barbieri's contract with Peak Records, the company owned by multi-instrumentalist Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons.
As Barbieri comes close to his 70th birthday (November 28), he shows no sign of stopping his career. Now married to wife, Laura, and enjoying his four-year-old son, Christian, Barbieri is excited about what is happening to him. Still performing throughout the world, Barbieri continues to have an enthusiasm for his music and for life.