Argentines into Latins: The Jazz Histories of Lalo Schifrin and Gato Barbieri
Chapter 2 compares the trajectories of Lalo Schifrin and Gato Barbieri, two jazz musicians who left Argentina for Europe before settling permanently in the United States. Arriving abroad in the 1950s and early 1960s respectively, both musicians were labeled “Latin,” an ethnic category and a musical descriptor that meant nothing to them before they left home. Schifrin and Barbieri responded to this challenge in different ways. Schifrin’s self-presentation as an intellectual enabled him to prosper at a time when Latin rhythms like the bossa nova constituted seductive symbols of cosmopolitan sophistication. As a white Argentine, Schifrin could claim natural expertise in Latin American rhythms while remaining comfortingly familiar. By contrast, Barbieri arrived at a moment of political and cultural ferment. In the context of the free jazz movement and the rise of protest jazz, his persona was politicized. Unlike Schifrin, he articulated Latin-ness as an irreducible difference and an implicit critique of white, North American power and privilege. Both musicians achieved impressive commercial and artistic successes: Schifrin injected Latin American musical elements into Hollywood soundtracks and thereby into global popular culture, while Barbieri pushed the concept of Latin jazz in new directions. At the same time, both musicians also reinforced many North American ideas about Latin identity.