Spring has a way of rekindling one's interest in flamenco, if it indeed needed rekindling. I won't be at this year's Feria de Sevilla, but I'll be surrounded by some excellent new recordings, some of which we'll look at here, and more new stuff on order. Whether you have the good fortune to go to España this spring or not, there may be some surprises here for you in the reviews or the "honorable mentions". Later we'll also take a more recent look at how flamenco is developing on the internet.
Mi Camino Flamenco...Journey to a New World is the hottest new CD out there in my opinion. Guitarist Adam del Monte makes his stunning recording debut with some very competent support from Rubem Dantas (cajón), Paul Tchunga (percussion), Antonio de Jerez (cajón and palmas), Miguel de Málaga (cante por siguiriyas), Laila del Monte (footwork), and some other fine jazz musicians. Adam, who grew up in Madrid and now resides in Los Angeles, establishes himself here among the very best guitarists of the modern style of toque.
Prior to this recording he had played with some of Spain's top people: Pepe Habichuela, Enrique Morente, Lole Montoya, Paco Cortés, Niño Miguel, and Gerardo Núñez, who was a neighbor of his back in Madrid. I got a chance to meet Adam's father in 1992. Dino Del Monte, zimbalist and guitarist, as well as painter, has also recently come out with a CD. Dino, born in Bucharest to a Sephardic family of "granadino" origin, came to Spain in the late 60's. Adam also appears on 4 selections on his father's new release titled "Entre Los Tiempos" on the Spanish label Sonifolk.
The opening tango, titled Laila, and the buleria "A Mi Aire" are my 2 favorite offerings. While employing jazz chords, Adam maintains a gutsy flamenco "aire". That seems to be the challenge for modern players: to keep a flamenco aire amidst the jazz influence. Incidentally, Vicente Amigo's first solo recording had lots of energy, but his second release was anti-climactic, showing a mellowness which disppointed many of the people that he had bowled over initially. I don't see Adam following in Vicente's mold. It's just a gut feeling, and remains to be seen. "Llantos de La Judería" is a siguiriya done with a remarkable insistence, very effective and serious as well as modern. Without methodically combing through the recording, 2 other things stand out. The alegría "Jazzmenco" got to me like few I've heard. The other, Sevilla de Albéniz, is done with an unusual combination of classical precision and clarity with flamenco attack. The only criticism of the recording as a whole would come from old timers who want to hear more thumb playing, which is not a complaint so much about Adam as about the modern approach in general. This CD is available only directly from Adam: firstname.lastname@example.org (internet) or by phone at (818) 286-6747. If you like modern flamenco, it will be among your favorites.
Before I go on to the next review, I'm going to mention a few recordings by good artists that have failed to impress me: Tomatito's latest release "Guitarra Gitana", Juan Carmona's "Borboreo", Pepe de Lucía's "El Orgullo de Mi Padre", El Potito's "Mía pa' Los Restos", Chano Lobato's "La Nuez Mosca" with Pedro Bacán (despite a great bulería, and despite the fact that it's one of Pedro's last recordings before his untimely death). Even on some of the better recordings from Ethnic's Flamenco Vivo series, such as El Barullo's "Plazuela" and Diego Rubichi's "Luna de Calabozo" the problem is in the mix: on most tracks the voice overpowers the guitar(s) which are echoing badly from bad placement and too much reverb. There are a few outstanding exceptions to all this, though. Tomasa La Macanita's CD with Moraíto is a fine recording every way you judge it. If you will at least listen to non-gypsies, then another one worthy of mentioning is Maite Martín's "Muy Frágil" with the phenomenal Chicuelo on guitar. Another fine young female cantaora who is making her prescence known with a CD is La Niña Pastori.
That brings us to the North American release of the 1994 phenomenal "Jucal" by guitarist Gerardo Núñez. I'm glad to see that Angel Romero of Ellipsis Arts has made Gerardo's recording available on this side of the "charco". The new release has a total of 9 tracks, so my inital assumption was that 2 were added. It turns out that there are 3 new tracks, as well as a rearrangement of the order of them. Also, my favorite one of all "Hacia Mí", a 10 minute rondeña with bulería ending, was dropped. My guess is that Angel made a decision here to make the CD more palatable for foreign consumption by dropping one of the tracks featuring a cantaor that might shock the foreigner too soon. I think he made the right decision from a strictly marketing point of view. Later there is a tango with cantaor Ramón el Portugués and a female chorus. Also, the missing rondeña material does appear later minus Dieguito, the cantaor from the original, and minus the wild overdubbed bulería ending. Then there is a slow nana with cante to arpeggiated rythm. If you're looking for a great recording of guitar music to add to your collection, Jucal is a solid choice. Gerardo Núñez is an idea-man; he will not dissapoint the aficionado looking for new twists.
Speaking of new twists, another interesting recording of flamenco guitar with Indian tabla has been released by the group Curandero. Fusion fans will like "Arás" by guitarist Miguel Espinoza, tablist Ty Burhoe, bassist Kai Eckbardt, and banjoist Bela Fleck. After the group's successful debut recording, I was wondering what direction it would take. Initially, the addition of a banjo player sounded like a mistake, but a careful listen will show a very nice use of that instrument, not intrusive at all, somewhat oud-like at times. My favorite tracks are the bulería "Arás", "River" in 7/4 time, the rumba "Embrujada, and the final piece "Enshalla". Ty Burhoe's expert tabla playing is a welcome change of pace, much better sounding than the "cajón" so popular nowadays. Miguel shows a wealth of moods in rythm, chord patterns, and dynamics. They also added some choral coloring, reminiscent of Chick Corea and Vicente Amigo, but different.
The group has signed to do two more CD's with Silverwave Records here in Colorado. I look forward to their future records based on what I've heard so far. I'm very proud of Miguel, a former student of mine, and wish him continued success. "Arás" is quite a good sounding thing.
Here is a short list of a few new CD releases that seem promising:
Our internet flamenco mailing list has had another change of address. (See main page for current information). The new administrator's name is Sue Banka, to whom we are all greatful for giving the list a new home.
Also getting a new home last year was John Dimick's Flamenco Home
on the World Wide Web. It now can be found at the following URL:
http://www.guitarist.com/fg/fg/htm. It provides many links to other
important flamenco web pages such as the German Flamenco Pages, Dutch
Flamenco Pages, Bay Area Flamenco Page, Flamenco Chuck's Compás
Analysis, Pedro Cortés, Juan Martín, and Mariano
The future promises to bring many new sites.
Actually if you do a flamenco search through a search engine such as
you will get over 2,000 flamenco "hits". Increíble!
Since the last issue many new recordings come to our attention. Even though some still feel that recordings are the antithesis of Flamenco, those same people seem to be closet-cases with quite a few discs and tapes in their collection. Some of the following are over a year or two old, but will be reviewed or mentioned here due to the delay of information coming from Spain to other parts.
Bulerías En Compás de Origen is a nice live production of all bulerías by the guitarist/promoter Manuel Morao. Manuel Moreno (Morao), born in 1929, has appeared with the great Antonio's dance company and was the longtime preferred guitarist of the cantaor Terremoto. He also appeared on the old London Anthology of Cante accompanying such important figures as Antonio Mairena, Juan Talega and Aurelio Sellés.
On this CD however, Juan does not play at all, serving as musical director for some special new talents. I had initially assumed that the personnel would be from Morao's 1992 Gypsy Passion on Broadway, but a check of the program shows all different people. The guitarist on all the cuts is Diego Amaya, who plays in a sharp traditional Jerez style with only slight hint of modernity. Diego admirably meets the challenge of making it interesting, obviously from his experience in juergas.
There are seven long and wonderful bulerías by singers María Monje, Chico Pacote, Macarena Moneo, Juan Junquera, Joaquín El Zambo, Carmen La Cantarota, and Antonio El Monea. This recording is a throwback to a previous era, and proves that even with all the new styles of today, traditional flamenco is assured at least an underground survival in Jerez among the gypsy families.
This is not to say that there are not other parts of Spain producing solid artists, be they gypsy or not. A case in point is a fine gypsy singer from Oviedo in northen Spain. Rafael Jiménez "Falo" makes his debut with Cante Gitano! Guitarists "Canito", "Paquete", and David Serva provide some super support throughout, with impressive ideas and dynamics complementing Falo's unmistakeable gypsy approach. Some of the highlights are: Falo's rendition of Joselero's soleá "Me Juegan Consejos de Guerra", the other soleá with David Serva's masterful accompaniment, and two bulerías "muy airosas".
Some friends have expressed reservations about a few things here though. I agree with one opinion. The use of the cajón or indian tabla in the siguiriya seems to push the pace too fast. The liner notes just list José Antonio Galicia as percussionist without more detail; there seems to be a hammer hitting the anvil as well. It's my least favorite track, a surprise since siguiriya is one of my favorite cantes. I differ with the other opinion about the appropriateness of the malagueña de Mellizo done with a Gregorian Chant chorus. In theory it seems incongruous, but I did like the actual rendition to some degree. Although I wouldn't buy a hypothetical reverse recording: one that had all cante with chant and ended with one track of the expected. This CD is a good choice, if you're looking for quality and variety.
A new female star, La Niña Pastori, has come out with a fine CD titled Entre Dos Puertos. In a little over a year the recording has sold over 100,000 copies, due to her charming adolescent voice and the expert musicianship and overall production. It's hard to make a bad production with the likes of the following guitarists: Riqueni, Mora¡to, Cañizares, and Ricardo Miño; as well as a few more I'm not familiar with, who handle themselves quite well: Ram¢n Trujillo and Antonio Reyes.
Born in 1978 in Camarón's home town of San Fernando (La Isla), María Rosa García is capable of both pure and commercial flamenco. Tú Me Camelas, the opening tango, shows the commercial side and has quite a bit of Camarón's influence from Potro de Rabia y Miel. La Guitarra, a soleá por bulería based on the poem by Federico García Lorca, is my favorite cante on the CD. It's more like a slow bulería, and is quite effective with a nice overdubbed chorus toward the end. While most of the record is good, two other cuts stand out. Alma Rota, labeled a jaleo, has a nice different approach I hadn't heard on previous versions of the jaleo rythm. Fandangos del Río has a slow pace, somewhat reminiscent of Camarón's Calle Real, but with a different melody.
Despite her talent and successful debut recording, Entre Dos Puertos is not for everyone. Definitely purchase it unless you don't like the modern style in general; and more specifically avoid it if you dislike El Potito, Duquende, or any of the younger singers who have a high pitch range. I look foreward to her future releases which probably will show a more mature voice. That brings us to some recordings of guitar.
Pepe Habichuela's latest offering "Habichuela en Rama" is his first since "A Mandeli" in 1984. Pepe's flamenco touch is very hard to beat. He's from the in-between generation, so many will be curious to hear this new one. It's a tough call: he seems too traditional here for the modern aficionado, and too hip for the fan of the traditional. That leaves the in-between aficionado to really appreciate Pepe's efforts, with some overlapping both ways.
I was dissappointed that he used the cajón in "Amanecer", the seguiriya. Someone assured me that it was an indian tabla, but a check of the CD insert shows the word "percusión" next to the name Tino Di Geraldo; and I can't tell here which it is. It doesn't seem to push the rythm as much as was noted above, but does give a more metronome-like feel to the siguiriya. Another surprising track was "Recordando Escencias". This alegrías uses 5 or 6 falsetas by Sabicas with a different personal "aire", and mixed with other material.
My favorite cut is "A Machuca", a very well done modern tango. Pepe gets great sound in the rondeña and the taranta, but the material seems to repeat ideas from other guitarists. The soleá por bulerías is very good. There is a great falseta from an old LP of Mario Escudero. I had made a copy of that rare record on tape for Mario a few years back; later I remember seeing a photo of Mario with Pepe in Pedro de Miguel's guitar shop in Madrid in the book that comes with the "Duende" 3 CD set. I'm sure that Mario played it or gave it to Pepe, as very few play like Mario these days, and that recording is out of print. Don't blame me if the CD dissapoints you, but overall it gets a thumbs up.
"De Nácar" is the solo debut of the "sevillano" José Manuel Roldán. I first became aware of him through his earlier accompaniment of the cantaor "Boquerón". José Manuel uses a "negra" guitar and gets a pleasant and robust sound. He excells in all aspects of flamenco with super flawless technique. This CD has lots of reverb in the mix which is hard to overlook; even so it's a good recording of modern flamenco guitar.
"Maquida" is the third solo recording of "Niño de Pura", after "Capricho de Bohemia" and "Caliente". His first two caught the attention of many for the nice arrangements and stunning picados. He seems to be maturing a bit as he gets older, but I did like "Caliente" more than "Maquida". The highlights for me are "Pa' Pura", guajira, and "Callejones", tarantas. On "Ricahembra", alegrías, there is a cameo appearance by the cantaor, Pansequito. If you like the hot-rod approach to guitar, at least get one recording by this young promising artist.
If it had occurred to you that it's the older people seeking a "fountain of youth", rather than the young, then here is the CD to rejuvenate you. Planet Records has made a recompilation from 78's of a young Sabicas accompanying some of Spain's top cantaores of the 20's, 30's and 40's. The title "Sabicas y Los Cantaores" might mislead one to believe it's the same one he made on RCA many years later. This has 20 tracks of the maestro accompanying Niño de la Calzada, Pena Hijo, Manuel Vega "El Carbonillero", Juanito Valderrama, El Chato de las Ventas, Niña de la Puebla, and Estrellita Castro. The recording quality is suprisingly good to excellent. Every Sabicas aficionado will be delighted with this one.Salad Dressing:
El Flamenco Vive, a one stop flamenco shop, has moved to a new address betweeen the Teatro Real and Calle Mayor at Conde de Lemos, 7, 28013 Madrid. To receive their quarterly color catalog send a letter or fax them at (91) 547 39 17. They offer a large selection of CDs, cassettes, videos, books, flamenco clothing and shoes, t-shirts, sweat shirts, guitars and cajones.
One of the most notable new products offered on video is the TV series "Rito Y Geografía Del Cante", made in the early seventies. The catalog doesn't mention if it's also available in the U.S. format. Other notable things include a series of CDs called "Sólo Compás" by which the student can learn the rythms of flamenco, and new recordings by Joaquín Cortés, Lole, Palo Dulce, Triana Pura, Chano Lobato y Su Familia, Rancapino, Terremoto Hijo, Vicente Amigo, and Raimundo Amador. Also, there are many old re-releases of hard to find artists from all generations.