Paco de Lucia
Paco de Lucia is one of the world's greatest guitarists, as well as the most innovative and influential flamenco artist of the last thirty years. Since the late 1960s his flamenco recordings have had a revolutionary impact, infusing new life into the art form and bringing it worldwide attention. His groundbreaking collaborations with jazz artists and his participation in notable soundtracks have brought him to the attention of a broad audience.
Luzia is a brilliant celebration of traditional flamenco forms in instrumentation and composition, something De Lucia has returned to throughout his career, in contrast to explorations with his sextet, or his work with jazz guitarists John McLaughlin and Al Dimeola in their recordings as The Guitar Trio 9. The album is dedicated to De Lucia's mother, Lucia Gomez, who passed away in 1998.
"This album is traditional but also new," he says. "It is tradiontal in what has to do with the form: it's a solo guitar and I'm no including a sax for example. But it is also full of new ideas, harmonies, and concepts in how to play solo guitar in flamenco forms such as solea, bulerias, or seguirillas. And there are harmonies I have never used before." For De Lucia this very personal revisiting of the flamenco tradition, bringing home bits and pieces from distant places, "is a result of everything I hear, of what I'm taking in from everything else I'm doing."
De Lucia, one of the great innovators in contemporary flamenco, started rather traditionally. He was born Franscisco Sanches Gomez in Algeciras, a city in the province of Cadiz, in the southernmost tip of Spain, on December 21, 1947. (His stage name is a tribute to his mother.) His father, Antonio Sanchez, a day laborer, played guitar at night as a way to supplement his income. His father, his elder brother Ramon de Algeciras, and flamenco master Nino Ricardo were De Lucia's main influences. De Lucia's first performance was on Radio Algeciras in 1958 when he was only eleven years old. His brothers Ramon and Pepe (a singer) are often part of Paco de Lucia groups.
The training ground for a flamenco guitarist, De Lucia once said, "is the music around you, made by people you see, the people you make music with. You learn it from your family, from your friends, in la juera (the party) drinking. And then you work on technique. Guitarists do not need to study. And, as it is with any music, the great ones will spend some time working with the young players who show special talent. You must understand that a Gypsy's life is a life of anarchy. That is a reason why the way of flamenco music is a way without the discipline, as you know it. We don't try to organize things with our minds; we don't go to school to find out. We just live... music is everywhere in our lives."
In 1959, De Lucia was awarded a special prize in the Jerez flamenco competition. Starting at fourteen, he toured with the flamenco troupe of fabled dancer Jose Greco for three seasons. While on tour with Greco's dance company in the United States, De Lucia met the great Sabicas, a guitarist whose name had become synonymous with flamenco in the U.S. "I was a child when I met him," recalls De Lucia. "He heard me play and basically said that for me to have a career I had to move away from imitation."
I think he was annoyed with me because in those days there were two great schools of flamenco guitar. Nino Ricardo, who was the leader of my generation in Spain, and Sabicas, who was in the United States. So I came to him playing in Nino Ricardo's style and I believe Sabicas got mad that I didn't play his music. But it was useful (it shocked me. It became a great impetus to go for my own style, my own thing."
De Lucia would follow Sabicas' advice. He recorded his first album, Los Chiquitos de Algeciras, with his brother Pepe, in 1961 at the age of fourteen. But by 1967, with the release of La Fabulosa Guitarra de Paco de Lucia, De Lucia began to distance himself from the influence of masters such as Ricardo and Mario Escudero. With the release of Fantasia Flamenca, two years later, he had defined his own style. His superb technique was showcased in well-designed pieces that departed from the flamenco tradition of them and variations. In 1970, he made his debut at Carnegie Hall.
In 1968, he met Camaron de la Isla, one of the premier flamenco singers. The encounter grew into a personal and professional relationship that has been chronicled on more than ten records. Their album Potro de Rabia y Miel (1991) was one of the last recordings by Camaron, who died in 1992. (On Luzia, De Lucia pays a tribute to his friend and collaborator in the closing track, titled simply "Camaron".) De Lucia's new style became more evident in El Duende Flamenco (1972); Fuente Y Caudal (1973), which included the hit "Entre Dos Aguas"'; and Almoraima (1976). They were followed by Paco de Lucia Interpreta a Manuel de Falla (1980), a superb tribute to the classical composer who was an admirer of flamenco music, and in 1981, Solo Quiero Caminar.
Flamenco die-hards have criticized De Lucia for his forays into other styles. His own sextet, organized in 1981, includes bass, drums, and saxophone. In addition to his work with McLaughlin and DiMeola, his high-profile collaborations include work with guitarist Larry Coryell, and pianist Chick Corea, who joined Paco's sextet for Zyryah (1990). The stunning results of these collaborations have been documented in celebrated recordings with The Guitar Trio: Castro Marin (1979), Passion Grace and Fire (1982), and Friday Night in San Francisco (1981). In 1996, De Lucia, McLaughlin, and DiMeola reunited for The Guitar Trio on Verve and a sold-out tour.
Paco de Lucia has also recorded soundtracks for films such as Carlos Saura's Carmen, Borau's La Sabina, and the ballet Los Tarantos, presented at Madrid's prestigious Teatro de la Zarzuela in 1986. He was featured in Bryan Adams' 1995 hit single and video "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" from the film Don Juan DeMarco. But periodically, De Lucia returns to pure flamenco with a vengeance as in the spectacular Siroco (1987). "Within the tradition, the flamenco orthodoxy, I was not taken seriously at first," he says. "At some point I was thought of as sacrilegious and now it turns out I'm a master. Some thought I was just fooling around, and as it turns out my tomfoolery is much of today's flamenco."
He shrugs off the complaints of such purists or the concerns of those who fear he might lose his roots or, worse, betray the essence of flamenco. "I have never lost my roots in my music, because I would lose myself," he once said. "What I have tried to do is have a hand holding onto tradition and the other scratching and also digging in other places trying to find new things I can bring into flamenco." Some of his innovations have since transcended his own work to become the new stan