Playlist: Flamenco Meets Jazz
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On The Corner Masthead


September 27, 2018 | by Rebeca Mauleón


With flamenco singer Buika performing Valentine's Day weekend at SFJAZZ on February 14-17, revisit the passionate embrace of this musical marriage with a playlist curated by SFJAZZ Director of Education Rebeca Mauleón, “Flamenco Meets Jazz.”

The cross pollination of jazz and flamenco is nothing new. Most would argue that it all began with Paco de Lucía. Upon his emergence as the reigning king of flamenco guitar, no other musician in Spain did more to advance the art form. It was his experimentation not only with jazz, but with Afro Cuban and Middle Eastern music, that ushered in a new era of what we now call "flamenco-jazz." However, Miles Davis’ album Sketches of Spain hinted at an unfamiliar yet magnificently fluid blend of the two traditions. Through Gil Evans’ stunning orchestrations of Spanish impressionists Manuel de Falla and Joaquín Rodrigo, the “Third Stream” work clearly signified that jazz had found a soulmate in Spain.

By the 1970s, as de Lucía’s collaboration with infamous gypsy singer Camarón had single handedly altered the stylistic approach of “authentic” flamenco, Spanish artists were cultivating a blend of hard bop-infused textures with an increasing presence of Middle Eastern rhythms and instruments. In the 80s, fusion group Ketama boldly explored the many facets of musical alchemy, giving rise to a more blues-tinged style while simultaneously crowning a new guitar icon in Vicente Amigo.

While the guitar is certainly a quintessential element of flamenco, there are a number of pianists who have deftly crafted a remarkable blend of flamenco and jazz, among them the extraordinary Chano Dominguez and Diego Amador. Inspired by the fluidity of Bill Evans, and the angular and rhythmically adventurous approach of Thelonious Monk, Dominguez, in particular, is one of Spain’s most “bilingual” musicians.

Flamenco-jazz also found a fierce advocate in Dominican-born pianist Michel Camilo, and his remarkable pairing with Spanish guitar virtuoso Tomatito, and more recently, Cuban piano titans Bebo and Chucho Valdés (respectively), in their masterful collaborations with famed flamenco singers Diego El Cigala and Concha Buika. While many Spaniards insist that the best in flamenco must come from Andalucía (in Southern Spain), other regions of the country have also produced artists who continue to push the cannon forward, notably Catalan groups Ojos de Brujo and Jarabe de Palo, who boldly combine flamenco styles with rock, hip-hop, Brazilian samba and more.

– Rebeca Mauleón



Orginally posted on October 27, 2016