Flamenco fiesta

Despite their shared love for the base genre, the Barcelona threesome is a fusion of different approaches, and they each bring different cultural and musical baggage to their musicians.

Barcelona Guitar Trio and Dance  (photo credit: EGOEAST PRODUCTIONS)
Barcelona Guitar Trio and Dance
If it’s instrumental pyrotechnics and sultry calisthenics you’re looking for, you could do a lot worse than pop along to the Barcelona Guitar Trio and Dance shows at the Haifa Auditorium and the Performing Arts Center in Tel Aviv, on December 20 and 21 respectively.
The master flamenco players in question are Manuel González, Xavier Coll and Luis Robisco, with champion hoofers Jose M. Álvarez and Carolina Morgado offering some exciting visual flamenco-fueled aesthetic, and percussionist Paquito Escudero will underscore the rhythmic elements.
The show takes in works written and/or inspired by Paco de Lucia, Manuel de Falla, Federico Garcia Lorca and stellar jazz pianist Chick Corea, with particular emphasis on de Lucia. De Lucia, who performed here on a number of occasions, died suddenly in 2014 at the age of 67. He was one of the most celebrated exponents of flamenco guitar who was famous for his sensitivity of touch and breakneck speed.
Despite their shared love for the base genre, Coll says that the Barcelona threesome is a fusion of different approaches, and they each bring different cultural and musical baggage to their musicianship. “Our cultural background is a bit different,” he notes. “Manuel comes from the tradition of classical guitar and has always been focused on it. Luis has studied classical and flamenco guitar, and also plays electric guitar, alternating flamenco, which is the style he cultivates most, with pop, jazz and other music. I come from the classical tradition, having also delved into ancient music. I’ve also played some jazz or flamenco but I haven’t developed them as much as Luis.”
Coll adds that he and all his professional counterparts owe de Lucia a debt of gratitude. “For this program that we present, undoubtedly a great influence has been Paco de Lucía, which was an inspiration for all flamenco guitarists and also for many other styles. Paco was a giant in the history of the guitar.”
A percussive approach is central to flamenco, with that often punctuated by dancers and percussionist. Coll says the trick is to juggle that along with the melodic content. “You always have to find a balance. The percussion gives a very great rhythmic richness to the music and in our repertoire it is important that it is played with sensitivity and good taste. Paquito [Escudero] is excellent at combining these two facets.”
Although, to the uninitiated, flamenco may seem to be a more or less uniform genre there are, in fact, different strains which are colored by local seasoning. The same, says Coll, applies to his and his pals’ take. “Flamenco has been very present in Catalonia as well. The rumba [ballroom style], for example, originated with the Catalan gypsies.”
Flamenco guitar playing is not a prime example of jaw dropping dexterity, Coll notes there are also areas where the instrumentalist can go off on individual tangents.
“There are some scores that are fully written, for example those of Manuel de Falla, and others such as Spain or Ziryab in which we improvise. Of course there is an influence of jazz on improvisations.” With Corea material in the concert repertoire, that stands to reason.
There are various notions regarding flamenco’s origins, with many claiming that it was started by gypsies in India, who then roamed across Europe to Spain, picking up local colors and textures en route. Coll says that also applies to the input provided by the ethnic groups that populated Spain of yore. “The cultural and musical footprint left by the Jews and the Arabs in Spain was enormous, much more important than is usually recognized.”
Naturally, solo and ensemble formats demand different approaches, in terms of the players listening and feeding off each other. Coll says the core mind-set is a given, although sharing the stage with other musicians and artists from other disciplines can have a bearing on the performance. “Basically we play the same, but there are nuances that change. The dynamics must be adapted to the volume of the set. Sometimes there are nuances of interpretation that can change. In fact, each interpretation is new, not only the number of participants influences, the sound of the room, the atmosphere, the response of the audience ... even our own mood at the time of the concert.”
Flamenco guitarists are normally pretty intense on stage, although Coll scotches my suggestion that there is a visual side to the way he, González and Robisco go about their business. Having hoofers around can help to get the sensory message across. “Music is enhanced by dance. This is unquestionable. But it can also walk alone. Many of the trio’s concerts are without dancing. Anyway, the dance helps to convey the emotions that are in the music. And transmitting emotion is what moves us, what motivates us when giving a concert.”
For tickets and more information: *8780 and www.leannco.il