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Thursday, February 27, 2014 (read 542 times)
Paco de Luciaby Tyson
The Essence of Flamenco
Flamenco has lost one of its greatest guitar legends, Paco de Lucía (1947 – 2014). His broad vision of the genre, which embraced jazz and other styles, blended innovative accents to his bold musical expression inspired by an unwavering passion for the essence of flamenco.
He learned to play the guitar in much the same way a child learns how to talk; infused with flamenco’s inspired intensity, raw rhythms and Andalusian cadences from early life, he began developing guitar voicings as a child with the help of his father. He grew up with a musical family in Algeciras, a port town in southern Spain, going on to collaborate with his brothers Ramón and Pepe de Lucía during his successful career.
With no formal musical training, de Lucía began recording albums at just 14 years old. Years later he would be performing in venues such as Carnagie Hall and earning Latin Grammies, already having become one of flamenco’s most recognizable icons along with Camarón de la Isla. He and Camarón recorded 10 albums together in the 60’s and 70’s, work that included the legendary 1973 song Entre dos aguas, a piece that broke from flamenco tradition featuring an electric bass in the composition.
As early as 1971, the new rising star on the flamenco horizon boldly stated in Triunfo magazine that the art of flamenco was in the hands of “obstructionists who didn’t want the art to evolve”. He and Camarón had already set their eyes on distant horizons that lay far beyond the boundaries laid by flamenco purists, where the artists could enjoy unrestrained freedom to explore diverse musical idioms.
By the early 1980’s, de Lucía had dived head first into the jazzy waters of improvisation, performing with ensembles in the US and broadening his chordal catalog. He toured and played with Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin, and in 1981 the trio recorded the commercially successful live album Late Night in San Francisco. The same year he created the Paco de Lucía Sextet, a group that included a bass, drums and a saxophone. The following year he toured with pianist Chick Corea, who later stated that Paco had inspired him “as much as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, or Bartok and Mozart”.
Paco de Lucía defended his inclusion of other styles in a 2004 interview with El Pais newspaper explaining “I have not the obedience that the purists continue to have, but the respect for the essence, the old, the valid. Memory.” He won the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts that year with the jury panel specifically citing his ability to transcend borders and styles. He also won a Latin Grammy the same year.
This guitar genius whose fret board journeys took listeners on high passion adventures through sound has left us, but recordings that capture the intense expression of his music remain, as do his bold legacy and strong influence that helped shape a new version of flamenco that embraces diversity.
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Posted In: Culture