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As is often the case, I've been so busy hearing great music that I haven't had time to write about it. I saw the opening night of Vicente at SF Jazz March 10. The heir to the genius of Paco de Lucia (Paco was godfather to Vicente's daughter, and Vicente to Paco's son) Vicente plays with an abandon and depth that only the complete mastery of an instrument allows. Like Paco, he is secure enough of his stature to explore other mediums and genres, notably his recording Tierra of a few years ago, which explored Celtic and Spanish themes with members of Mark Knopfler's band. (Ancient Celtic songs from Galicia are in fact incorporated into flamenco). This band featured the dancer Antonio "El Choro" Molina, the bassist Ewen Vernal, percussionist Paquito Gonzalez, and Rafael de Utrera and Antonio Fernandez on vocals and palmas. The program reached its climax with a rousing bulerias featuring Molina's inspired dancing. A "puro" recording of cante jondo is forthcoming.
Carlos Saura's latest performance film, Flamenco Flamenco, is finally released in the US. Shot in 2010 at the Seville Expo '92 Pavillion by legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist / Apocalypse Now) Flamenco Flamenco is a sequel to Saura's 1995 Flamenco. Like flamenco itself, it is a dream, a poem, and all of reality. Almost all of the flamenco community is recorded; Vicente Amigo and El Viejin being perhaps glaring exceptions. Flamenco featured very simply filmed performances. Flamenco Flamenco is intentionally more theatrical; one scene has Eva Yerbabuena and Miguel Poveda performing on set in the rain. Every generation alive and performing today is included; from the stunning 14 year old dancer Manuel Fernandez "El Carpeta" to the octogenarian Maria Bala singing an unaccompanied solea. Manolo Sanlucar's alegria is amazing. Paco de Lucia plays a buleria por solea with La Tania singing for the second to last piece; and Moraito plays and even dances on the final buleria de Jerez, reminding us in an eerily beautiful way that we have lost two giants. All the dancing does flamenco justice. Sara Baras, with an alegria no less, will steal your heart.

Last week was a beautiful one for music.  The great Tomatito played the Palace of Fine Arts on Wednesday.  Presented by the Omni Foundation and Eddie Diaz's Flamenco Society of San Jose, the tour was dedicated to the memory of Paco de Lucia.  With his son Jose del Tomate on guitar, El Cristi on guitar, Moises Santiago on percussion, Kiki Cortinas and Simon Roman on vocals, and the stunning dancer Paloma Fantova, Tomatito led a sublime evening of flamenco.  Ten years younger than Paco, Tomatito was Camaron's guitarist for the last 18 years of the great singer's life.  Building on the entire history of the music, and Paco's revolutionary innovations, Tomatito has ensured that flamenco guitar will continue to grow and evolve.  Perhaps the "jazziest" of modern flamenco guitarists, he has recorded with George Benson and Chick Corea, and understands bebop phrasing.  And yet his rodenas and mineras invoke the ancient. Fantova elicited gasps from the audience striking her first pose, steeped in the tradtion, and yet incredibly fresh and modern.  And in the one falsetta he was allowed in the encore, Tomate unsured that there will be brilliant guitarists for the future.  A greta and noble artist, Tomatito has a lovely gentleness and calm about him as well.  

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