You are here

Diego del Morao

Last Saturday Diego El Cigala performed at the SF Jazz Miner Auditorium. Perhaps the most gifted contemporary flamenco singer, he has experimented with salsa and Cuban music, winning a Grammy in 2003 for his collaboration with Bebo Valdes, and in 2005 for Picasso in Mis Ojos, with Paco de Lucia and Jerry Gonzalez. This performance featured electric guitar, piano, acoustic bass, and percussion. Elegant in white dinner jacket and tuxedo pants (the guitarist was in flannel shirt and jeans) Diego moved smoothly through a mostly salsa set. The band were obviously all originally flamenco musicians, and very at ease with the material. The electric guitarist in particular, Diego Garcia, played some traditional flamenco lines on the tangos (flamenco, not Argentine, although Diego has also explored that music). Piano and electric guitar don't have a fast enough decay to accompany the lightening response of a master flamenco singer, and as breathtakingly beautiful as his voice is - from a whisper to a scream in a nanosecond, I found myself longing for an acoustic flamenco guitar. A second acoustic guitar was listed in the program, so perhaps that was the original intent. A gifted producer, Diego recently released the debut of guitarist Diego del Morao, the son of the late great Moraito.

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!

Subscribe to RSS - Diego del Morao