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Jason McGuire

The great Tomatito played Herbst Theater last night as part of the Omni Foundation concert series. With José del Tomate on second guitar; Clapping/Vocals: Kiki Cortiñas & David Maldonado; Percussion: Israel Suárez “Piraña”; Baile (dancer): José Maya, the group was spectacular. Tomatito opened with a solo rondena, as Paco often did. Then his son Jose joined him for the Michael Camillo tune "Two". The other non original tune of the evening, also in the jazz idiom, was Charlie Hayden's "Our Spanish Love Song" While many flamenco guitarists listen to and love jazz, Tomatito alone understands the phrasing and can improvise conviningly. As the late Andre Bush said to me of Paco's playing: "Every note goes right through your heart". Jose Maya brought the house down with his dance to a bulerias. Whether soloing, or accompanying cante, or dance, Tomatito was magnificent. An added treat was sitting in the same row with my dear friends, the fantastically talented Yaelisa and Jason McGuire.

It's taken me a few days to write about Paco.  Like many flamencos, he lived a hard and full life.  And so I am shocked but not suprised that he left us in the prime of life.  And in truth, playing with one's children on a tropical beach is a fitting way to leave this mortal vale.  There is wonderful early footage of Paco in a bathrobe, cigarette in mouth, and whiskey nearby, playing an amazing rondena.  He was one of the very few artists of any genre, where each recording was eagerly awaited, for not only the music, but the overall philosophical direction it might point to.  Like Picasso and Miles, Paco changed the way his fellow practioners thought about their art.  As Andre Bush once said to me, every single note goes right through your heart.  A majestic technique allowed no seperation between thought and emotion, and execution.  His picado the result of being locked in his room by his father while still a child for hours on end, so the legend has it.  And for all his genius, a humble man.  For the truly great ones know that the music merely flows through the vessel of the player.  I had the privilege of seeing him many times.  Once, a few nights in a row to see if I could figure out how much was improvised.  The set list was identical, to be sure.  And I realized that his concentration was so intense, each note so perfectly and uniquely attacked, that one couldn't tell what was improvised or rehearsed - it was all so fresh and real.  I think of Paco the way he almost always started a concert.  Alone, in deep concentration, usually with a rodena, or minera, or taranta.  Following the piece through to its individual, logical conclusion.  So lost in the music that he didn't usually recognize applause until the end of a performance.  Solo Quiero Caminar and Siroco being for me recordings which expanded my entire idea of what flamenco could encompass.  And so now it is left to his heirs to carry on.  Manolo, and Pepe, and Vicente, and Tomatito, Canizares, Diego del Morao, Chuscales, Jason McGuire, El Vejin -so many great guitarists Paco has influenced that I couldn't possibly name all of them.  Ole Paco!

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