Gato Barbieri – Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile)

Gato Barbieri – Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile)

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“Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile)” is an instrumental from the Santana album Amigos, written by Carlos Santana and Tom Coster.

It is one of Santana’s most popular compositions, and it reached the top in the Spanish Singles Chart in July 1976. Upon seeing a friend suffering a bad experience whilst high on mescaline, Santana composed a piece titled “The Mushroom Lady’s Coming to Town.”

This precursor contained the first lick to “Europa.” The piece was put away and not touched for some time. When Santana was touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in Manchester, England, he played this tune again, this time with Tom Coster who helped him with some of the chords and thus Europa was born. It was renamed as “Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile)”. The 16-bar chord progression follows the Circle of Fifths, similar to the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves.”

Every other verse ends with a Picardy cadence. A famous rendition was by saxophonist Gato Barbieri off his 1976 from album Caliente!. In 2006, saxophonist Jimmy Sommers covered the song for his Standards album Time Stands Still. Contemporary jazz guitarist Nils released a rendition from his 2009 album Up Close & Personal. Blake Aaron covers the song on his album Soul Stories (2015).

Another famous rendition is the one made by Tuck Andress during the ’90s. Leandro “Gato” Barbieri (28 November 1932 – 2 April 2016) was an Argentine jazz tenor saxophonist and composer who rose to fame during the free jazz movement in the 1960s and is known for his Latin jazz recordings of the 1970s. His nickname, Gato, is Spanish for “cat”. Born to a family of musicians, Barbieri began playing music after hearing Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time”.

He played the clarinet and later the alto saxophone while performing with the Argentinean pianist Lalo Schifrin in the late 1950s. By the early 1960s, while playing in Rome, he also worked with the trumpeter Don Cherry. By now, influenced by John Coltrane’s late recordings, as well as those from other free jazz saxophonists such as Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders, he began to develop the warm and gritty tone with which he is associated.

In the late 1960s, he was fusing music from South America into his playing and contributed to multi-artist projects like Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and Carla Bley’s Escalator Over The Hill. His score for Bernardo Bertolucci’s film Last Tango in Paris earned him a Grammy Award and led to a record deal with Impulse! Records.

By the mid-70s, he was recording for A&M Records and moved his music towards soul-jazz and jazz-pop with albums like Caliente! in 1976 (including his best known song, Carlos Santana’s Europa) and the 1977 follow-up, Ruby Ruby, both produced by fellow musician and label co-founder, Herb Alpert. Although he continued to record and perform well into the 1980s, the death of his wife Michelle led him to withdraw from the public arena.

He returned to recording and performing in the late 1990s with the soundtrack for the film Seven Servants by Daryush Shokof (1996) and the album Qué Pasa (1997), playing music that would fall more into the arena of smooth jazz. He received the UNICEF Award at the Argentinian Consulate in November 2009. On April 2, 2016, Barbieri died of pneumonia in New York City at the age of 83.