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Defining the sound of modern Spain

Cositas Buenas
Cositas Buenas
By Paco de Lucia

Blue Thumb / Verve Records: 2004

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This review first appeared in the Winter 2003 issue of Turbula.

If you would understand modern flamenco, if you would know the contemporary sound of Spain's traditional music, all you need do is listen to Paco de Lucia.

For it was de Lucia (born Francisco Sanchez Gomez) who largely crafted modern flamenco, who took this very traditional music and dragged it into the present, who introduced other strands and influences (mostly American jazz and Argentinian tango) to it – and in so doing, brought flamenco to both jazz and tango as well.

As Muddy Waters did for the blues and Astor Piazzolla for tango, de Lucia has kept flamenco alive, kept it breathing, kept it from becoming a museum piece.

A new recording, "Cositas Buenas" (Good Small Things), shows de Lucia hewing closer to flamenco's roots than on some past efforts, but still indulging his curiosity about other styles, other sounds. One of the tracks is a tango, there are two rumbas (a Cuban style), and American jazz trumpeter Jerry Gonzales (from the Fort Apache Band) joins him on one of those rumbas ("Casa Bernardo").

Of course, there is still the guitar – that glorious guitar playing of de Lucia's.

Technically virtuosic, he never gets stuck in playing for technique's sake. Fast, yes, but his playing is always grounded in feeling, in mood. It is this emotional integrity that marks de Lucia as one of the greats, that has brought him fans both from flamenco and from the larger world.