Paco De Lucia: Alta Mar


Alta Mar


Paco De Lucia (guitar)


Live … One Summer Night (Philips 822 540-2)

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Paco De Lucia (guitar),

Pepe De Lucia (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jorge Pardo (flute, soprano sax), Ramon De Algeciras (guitar), Carlos Benavent (electric bass), Rubem Dantas (percussion)


Composed by Paco De Lucia; introduction composed by John McLaughlin


Recorded: live in Europe, 1984


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

In the early '80s, when Paco De Lucia started delving into jazz, many flamenco connoisseurs were unhappy with the latter music's most famous guitarist. Flamenco has a long and proud tradition. And just as classical aficionados don't like it when somebody messes with their music, flamenco purists perceived De Lucia as a traitor to their great traditions. But music must grow.

As part of the two Guitar Trio groups featuring John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell and later Al Di Meola, De Lucia learned how to integrate more chord changes and improvisational jazz skills into his music. Flamenco's greatest guitarist became an even better-rounded player capable of taking a group on the road to play superlative music that covered the jazz, Latin and flamenco idioms.

The intro to "Alta Mar" was written by John McLaughlin based on the theme from his tune "David." De Lucia plays it with grace, as supportive comments from the enraptured crowd interrupt to provide an extra layer of texture. The playing that follows turns spatial for a measure or two before Benavent's echoing electric bass heats things up. Some impressive unison runs with the percussionist ensue. The transition to full ensemble elicits a great cheer from the crowd. Paco's fingers are going a kilometer a minute. Pardo's saxophone soars over the flamenco, jazz and funk mix. This music demands that you yell at it. A rousing finale thrills the transported audience.

Today we hear flamenco combined with jazz, reggae, blues and many other musical forms every day, and think nothing of it. It took musicians as curious and brave enough as Paco De Lucia to make it that way.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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  • 1 Estela Zatania // Apr 23, 2008 at 11:56 PM
    "But music must grow." Now who made *that* rule? Does Bach grow? Or does his music sound as amazing today as when it was first written? Flamenco is down-to-earth, jazz floats....they make a lousy couple. Estela Zatania
  • 2 Alan Kurtz // Apr 25, 2008 at 11:47 PM
    "Music must grow" is an observation, not a rule. It may have escaped your notice, but Western European culture has changed dramatically in the 250 years since Bach's death. His music went mostly unperformed for decades thereafter, only to be revived in the 19th century. It is now more widely heard than ever. Yet the tradition of which Bach was a part has evolved almost beyond recognition, from early classicists to Romanticists to Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Stockhausen. Estela, I readily defer to your flamenco expertise. But when you write that "Flamenco is down-to-earth, jazz floats," it suggests you know less about jazz than I do about flamenco. You may be correct that the two forms "make a lousy couple." But I, for one, would never make such a sweeping putdown without being sure of my footing in BOTH camps.
  • 3 Estela Zatania // Apr 26, 2008 at 10:44 AM
    Alan, you're right, I know nothing at all about jazz. One supposes that music transcends such barriers, or else why do we even bother to make music in the first place? The extended chords so characteristic of jazz (no doubt there are branches of jazz that employ standard harmonies, please bear monentarily with my ignorance), and which Paco de Lucía was the first to introduce, convey a specific ethereal feeling of floating above the surface, never quite stating things head-on. Until Paco, the nature of flamenco which made the genre world-famous in the first place, was earthbound, straightforward and musically unambiguous, allowing singers to improvise freely, which in turn is the driving force in flamenco. Therefore, the introduction of the jazz element into flamenco has changed its basic nature and deprived us of something that had developed over many years and generations. We did not gain a genre with jazz-flamenco, we lost flamenco. Most of the best exponents of flamenco have died in the last 20 years, and no young people are developing careers in flamenco, which has become just another small fish in the great sea of world music, no longer distinguishable, for the casual listener, from jazz. Flamenco evolved dramatically for over 100 years, approximately 1850 to 1970, without ever going out of character. Loss is similar to, but not the same as "evolution". Best regards, Estela Zatania
  • 4 John Petrucci // May 08, 2008 at 11:27 PM
    Im The Guitar Player of "Dream Theater" There are many many good guitar players but Paco De Lucia Have my Respect and his my Friend too, I like all of the songs of Paco specially THIS: Alta Mar. Your Friend John Petrucci