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While it's true that the first chapter in Gato Barbieri's musical life – at least on records – had been that of an explorer, from his vanguard outings on ESP with Don Cherry and Dollar Brand to his showcasing the music of his native Latin America on Impulse, Fania, and Flying Dutchman as it intersected with modern jazz, it is the third chapter that concerns this release. Barbieri became deeply interested in commercial music and its possibilities for Latin jazz and the funk and salsa scenes in the early and mid-'70s.
The Third World is the initial session that mixed Gato Barbieri's free jazz tenor playing with Latin and Brazilian influences. It's also the album that brought Barbieri positive attention from the college crowds of the late '60s. He would expand on this musical combination with his next few Flying Dutchman releases as well as his first recordings for the Impulse! label. The records made between 1969 through 1974 find Barbieri creating a danceable yet fiery combination of South American rhythms and free jazz forcefulness. Strangely, once Barbieri signed with A&M, he began making commercial records geared to fans of Herb Alpert, sounding nothing like his earlier albums.
In 1973, Argentinean saxophonist Gato Barbieri contemplated a move to a more commercially viable, accessible sound, one that appealed to both North and South American audiences. He moved from the jazz vanguard toward it's exotic center (and finally into the commercial world altogether) with a number of records, including this one, which explored the various rhythms, melodies, and textures of Afro-Cuban and Latin American sounds. Bolivia features Barbieri immediately prior to his Impulse recordings that resulted in the celebrated four-chapter Latin America series.
Some artists totally change directions; some reinvent their personalities. It is hard to know exactly what to make of the case of this Argentinian tenor saxophonist, who first appeared as a sideman on several extremely important Don Cherry projects, making such an essential contribution to the overall feel of these records that listeners expected great things. After a few attempts at finding a meeting place between the energy and harshness of free jazz and the his own rhythmic roots, he created this album in which everything seemed to come together perfectly.