Paco De Lucia
Like other pioneers, while alienating some, his bold new experiments
have brought others into the fold. Paco's triumphant tours with John
McLaughlin and Di Meola - which yielded 1981's Friday Night In San
Francisco (Columbia 37152) and 1983's Passion, Grace & Fire
(Columbia 38645) - exposed new audiences to the bravura and majesty of
flamenco music, even if the music performed on their tours was not flamenco
in the purest sense of the word.
Paco has taken heat for his experimenting with such a rich tradition.
Yet, he is always mindful of not straying too far away from the roots. "I
cannot do with flamenco all that I should like because then it loses its
identity," he said backstage at Carnegie Hall before a performance.
"Flamenco is a very old music. It cannot evolve as quickly as, say, jazz has
evolved. It has to be a very slow evolution. So I am trying to introduce new
things - my feelings and thoughts - but I don't want to lose the tradition,
that sound. Flamenco is really a sound more than a music. It's a feeling, an
expression. So you can put in the qualities you like, but you have to take
care of that message, that sound."
Born in 1947 in Algeciras, part of the Gypsy region of southern Spain,
Paco won an amateur guitar contest at age 12. Flamenco dancer Jose Greco
soon took him out on tour, then Paco toured with his older brother Ramon,
performing with dancers, an essential part of flamenco training. "I spent my
whole teenage years playing for dancers and singers," he said. "I have had a
very big relationship with dancers all my career. For a long time, that was
the way to play flamenco, just backing up the dancers. To play solo in
concert is something for a very few - Sabicas or Carlos Montoya. Not many
Add Paco de Lucia to that list. At his Carnegie/Kool concert he wowed
the crowd with his adventurous, spontaneous flurries, straddling both the
traditions of flamenco and the spirit of jazz. When asked to compare the two
idioms, Paco said: "Musically, I think we have no similarities. But
emotionally we have a lot in common. Because, for example, the blues, which
is the foundation for much of jazz, comes from black people who have been
very persecuted. And this creates a special feeling in the music. It's the
same in flamenco with the gypsies, who were also very persecuted and kept out
of society in Spain. So gypsies feel like a clan, and that strong feeling
makes for a very special sound that comes through the music. The feeling is
very much the same in both flamenco and in jazz."
When he's performing in concert with brother Ramon or other flamenco
contemporaries, he's playing for the moment, trying to evoke moods rather
than memorizing passages. "You play what you want to play without thinking
in terms of structures. So the guitarists, we look to the faces and the
hands and we follow, one to the other, what is happening at the moment. It
has more freedom and is really much more anarchic than jazz."
Though he is currently touring Europe, Japan and South America with his
own group (and negotiating a new contract with Holland Polygram abroad),
Paco plans to reunite with his Trio buddies sometime in early '86. "Yes,
it's very nice to play with John and Al," he laughs. "Nice competition. We
fight on stage every night."
NEW YORK - In 1977, Paco de Lucia did the unthinkable. Going outside
the restrictive boundaries of flamenco music, he recorded a track on Al Di
Meola's electric LP, Elegant Gypsy. Unheard of for a flamenco
guitarist. Many staunch flamenco purists insisted that Paco was defying the
age-old, revered tradition of flamenco music. But as Al Di Meola said on
Paco's behalf, "He's not leaving flamenco, he's expanding it."