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, which 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 soul mate 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.
About Rebeca Mauleón
Rebeca Mauleón is an internationally acclaimed musician, bandleader, composer, GRAMMY-nominated producer, and educator as well as author and reviewer. As a pianist, Mauleon follows a long-standing tradition of Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz performers, and her expertise in Afro-Caribbean and Latin American music places her at the forefront of the musicological community, resulting in a multidimensional career spanning over three decades. From her recording and performing work with an array of Grammy-winning legends including Tito Puente, Carlos Santana, Steve Winwood, Arturo Sandoval, Joe Henderson and Mickey Hart, to her diverse compositional projects (ranging from symphonic works and Afro-Cuban jazz to music for film, television and computer software companies), and her critically-acclaimed recordings, books, and articles, Mauleon has carved a distinct niche as one of the most multi-faceted artists on the world music scene.