This year’s Festival has not only celebrated its past, with its twentieth anniversary recitals, but also its future, flamenco is a developing art. So we have a Japanese dancer headlining a show at the theatre ( though he was 77 years old! ), a remarkable gender-bending show by Manuel Linan ( of which more in another post ) and two Jereziano guitarists, each with their own set, treading the path from flamenco to jazz and settling, for the moment, somewhere in between. The path is well-trodden, by, amongst others, Paco de Lucia, who formed the Guitar Trio with John McLoughlin and Larry Coryell ( and later Al Di Meola ), also playing with jazz pianist Chick Corea, in the 1970s and ’80s.
On Wednesday at the Sala Paul, Javier Patino, a guitarist I have not heard play before, wowed us and the rest of the audience with songs from his latest CD, ‘Oro Negro‘ ( ‘Gold Black‘ ). He was accompanied by two, tremendous, percussionists, a sax/harmonica player and a cellist, with singers, Jesus Mendez and Tomasa Guerrero ‘Macanita’ Chelo on stage for some songs. But it was mostly instrumental pieces and very good they were. The electric harmonica played wonderfully with the guitar and the percussion solo brought down the house.
I was not so convinced about the cello ( though it was very well played ). Sometimes cello and guitar played exquisitely together, at other times the cello seemed at one remove from the sound of the other instruments. It might help if the cellist wasn’t seated quite so far to one side of the stage, beyond the,sometimes empty, singers’ chairs. Nonetheless, I will be watching out for how Patino’s music develops. As the review in the local paper put it the following day ‘Gold Black – Precious Metal‘.
If this were not enough we were treated on Thursday at the same venue to Santiago Lara’s tribute to US jazz guitarist Pat Methany ( his new CD ). I am a fan of Lara’s very fluid style of flamenco guitar playing and this, it seemed, was a natural step further for him ( entirely approved by Methany, see interview here, in English, in which Lara discusses Methany ). The quartet was a traditional jazz one, with a full drum kit, grand piano, bass electric guitar, Lara’s acoustic flamenco guitar ( especially miked ) and a versatile keyboard. This was very jazzy indeed. So much so that the dancing, by Mercedes Ruiz, Lara’s wife and a remarkable performer in her own right ( see Lamento ) looked a little bit like an add-on, just to prove this was flamenco after all. The singer, Rocio Marquez ( on disc Estrella Morente ), fitted in rather better, with her breathy, low-timbre voice.
Lara is definitely one to watch for the future. Already renowned in the flamenco world, I would not be at all surprised if this, relatively young, guitarist became very famous indeed.
Both of these guitarists are taking risks, although the music on their discs, ostensibly the same songs as in their sets, sounds more traditional. At both concerts we saw middle-aged Jerezianos in the audience who were clearly not entirely convinced by the music at first, applauding politely and exchanging glances. By the end they were applauding enthusiastically with the rest of us, and even standing and shouting for more. To an extent, I think, both guitarists were a little relieved. This is their home town after all and the heartland of flamenco.
One measure of their pleasure in success was evident when, at a nearby restaurant, where we were eating after Wednesday’s performance, the band entered and began the smiling toasts.