His whole body was waving back and forth. It was real magic. Each is an eminent musician in his own right, having reaped stacks of awards and much acclaim and having had his share of special moments onstage. But the European and U. Night after night, both the electricity of the music and the performers' mutual admiration permeated every corner of the hall. Below, Paco calls the experience "a victory for the acoustic guitar. Several duets in various combinations followed, and after an intermission the three took the stage together for unforgettable flights of interplay and improvisation.
Imagine a spirited rendition of Chick Corea's "Short Tales Of The Black Forest" with John McLaughlin at center stage on lead guitar, Al Di Meola to his right supporting with Latin-tinged rhythmic figures, and Paco de Lucia at his left interjecting lightning runs perhaps best described as jazz flamenco.
They break into a round-robin section of short, blistering solos including improvised licks and-just for fun-quotes from "Jumping Jack Flash," "Sunshine Of Your Love," and even "Dueling Banjos. Intense concentration and bursts of humor are communicated to every seat in the house as each gesture-a swivelled shoulder, a spontaneous grin, even a glance-registers with the audience. Many brief passages were met with roars of approval and whoops of delight, and fans leapt to their feet time after time.
He left in after recording three albums with the group. Di Meola was the subject of the cover story in the February issue. Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia was born in the Gypsy region of southern Spain.
He accompanied dancer Jose Greco at age 12, released his first solo album at age 16, performed in distinguished concert halls, and began extensive tours that brought him fame and respect throughout the world.
Paco is fiercely committed to spontaneity and has been criticized by some purists for expanding flamenco's boundaries one ground-breaking project was his collaboration with Al Di Meola on Elegant Gypsy. Named Best Flamenco Guitarist by Guitar Player readers four times in the last four years, he is an innovator who respects the "rules," even the ones he breaks.
His quest for vehicles of expression has led to his use of double-neck solidbodies, a scalloped-fingerboard electric, and a drone-string flat-top of his own design.
The tour with Paco and Al brought him back to the instrument with which he began his search, the nylon-stringed classical guitar. John, Al, and Paco discuss how their collaboration came about, their equipment and repertoire, their respect for each others' art, the energy and joys of shared experience, and their evenings of rare chemistry. For me, what I heard in Paco was his spirit of adventure, and that spirit is what true jazz is about. It's about exploration, searching for new ways.
Al and I grew up in this. In progressive music, improvisation is normal, and it's encouraged. But I've listened to a lot of flamenco, from a very long time ago, and I've loved it, but it's restricted in a sense by its traditions. What I heard in Paco was adventure. I've felt that way, too. And as far as John is concerned, when I encountered him about ten years ago, he was the first guitarist I heard to combine a tremendous amount of emotion with incredible technique.
I think that the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the first successful fusion group.
I think he started that whole movement - I know he did. Of course, Al and Paco have made beautiful records, and one could say that, yes, Paco has technical things, and Al has delicacy and brilliance, but these are only little things when trying to answer your question, which is a very profound question. For me, to honestly look at what I like about their music, I would have to say that I love them as men.
What I see in their life at night when we play-that's what I find beautiful. It's the way you see their life coming out when they play their music. They articulate it in their own unique way-their whole lives, and what they go through. They're completely themselves as men, and I love them as men. I feel at home when I play with them. John, for me, is very sabio-a wise musician. He goes beyond roots. He plays world music. He can be a flamenco, and with Al it's the same thing.
He feels the music in a Latin way. Onstage, I only have to look at him, how be plays physically-you know, when he gets his shoulder moving- for me to feel very good. I feel at home playing with him, even with the differences between us. How do you approach playing in the trio, and how does it compare to your solo performances? When I play alone, I hear only myself, and that's very satisfactory. But when I'm playing with Juanito and Alberto I have to fight to play a little bit better, because they are two monsters.
I'd like to do more of this. It's a new way of playing. Did you have to change your technique in order to fit in with two other guitarists? Manual technique, no, but conceptually, yes. I play always in a very anarchic way, but here we are improvising in a jazz way, and it's not what I'm used to doing.
Did you exchange material before you got together, or did you write out charts? How did you teach the unison and harmony parts to each other?
There was nothing exchanged before we got together. Once we met, it was a combination of learning by ear and using written-out parts. Paco doesn't read music, but he picks things up like that .
He has an impeccable ear. He's gotten very good at that. I remember when Paco and I first recorded three or four years ago he had never done anything like that, and it was a bit difficult. But coming to rehearsal for this, he was very, very quick.
Have you been surprised by the exuberance of the crowds, the screaming? In certain countries they don't do that. Like in Germany, they're quite reserved until the end of the song. The further south you go in Europe, they get more wild-Spain, Italy, France.
Does the crowd noise ever disturb or distract you? Sometimes the timing is pretty bad, like during a soft section they'll scream out John's name at the wrong time. But we're used to it. In Andalucia, when I play, the audience at some times will say "Ole" all at once. If they don't say "Ole," it means that you have played like shit .
How did this tour come about? Paco's manager, Barry Marshall, gave me a call and asked me if I was interested, and I immediately said yes. Paco is one of my all-time favorite guitar players, and so is Al. Al and I had never played together, although we talked about it several years ago.
You come with me and Al. So here I am, and it's one of my most difficult tours, but at the same time I think maybe it's the most satisfying tour I've ever done in my life. How much time did you have to rehearse prior to the first gig? I'd just finished three months of touring with my band in the States, and right after my last concert I caught the flu.
I think the three of us rehearsed for what-two or three days? And this was while I was sick, totally exhausted. But we just hit it-started on the 14th of October in Helsinki, Finland, and worked our way down, doing over 46 or 47 concerts with only a few days off. And l'm ready to do another 46 . It's been very well-planned. The tour itself, or the musical program? Everything, from the first moment. The audiences were phenomenal. We sold out every date and could have easily sold out extra shows in most cities.
Every city has treated the tour as a major event. Are you continuing to rehearse on the road as you go? Yes, but there's very little time. If we get some time off, we'll sit down and smooth out some rough edges.
There are a lot of smooth edges, too. Well, we've been rubbing up against each other every night for two months! And now it's hard to stop. I feel like this is our band. We all feel the same way. Paco, do you think that your participation in this tour signals a possible new path for flamenco in general? Yes, it's what I'm trying to do. I'm very glad to be here, to try to further my music.
His whole body was waving back and forth.
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