Flamenco Guitar Master Paco de Lucía Dies at 66
His collaborations with John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola expanded the genre’s reach
Paco de Lucía, the influential and virtuosic Spanish flamenco guitarist who expanded the music’s reach into other genres including jazz and classical, died this morning in Cancun, Mexico. The cause was a heart attack; de Lucía was 66.
De Lucía was a master of traditional forms of flamenco but much of his renown was due to his adventurousness, taking flamenco guitar beyond its role as accompaniment for singers and fusing it with other styles. His collaborative recordings with jazz artists brought him his widest recognition: In 1979, de Lucía, John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell formed the Guitar Trio, which recorded one album, and that name was retained after Al Di Meola replaced Coryell; in 1981 that lineup recorded a live album, Friday Night in San Francisco, that reportedly sold over a million copies.
Francisco Sánchez Gómez was born in Algeciras, Spain, on Dec. 21, 1947. He began playing guitar as a child, encouraged by his father, Antonio Sánchez, to excel, and began performing in public at age 11. While in his teens, De Lucía accompanied flamenco dancer José Greco. Encouraged to create his own music, de Lucía heeded the advice and began building his reputation as a prescient composer and particularly agile and inventive musician, capable of seamlessly melding improvisation with the heavily syncopated flamenco guitar style.
He recorded his first album, Dos guitarras flamencas en stereo, one of three with fellow flamenco guitarist Ricardo Modrego, in 1964, and in 1967 recorded the first of several albums with his older brother, Ramón de Algeciras, who would perform as a member of de Lucía’s groups into the 1980s.
Beginning in 1969, de Lucía recorded the first of 10 albums with singer Camarón De La Isla and although he continued to find success throughout the ’70s, it wasn’t until the ’80s and ’90s that de Lucía received wider international recognition, both with his own recordings and live performances and via his collaborations with players from outside of flamenco. His most notable releases included 1981’s Castro Marín with Coryell and McLaughlin, followed by his recordings with McLaughlin and Di Meola: the aforementioned Friday Night in San Francisco (1981), Passion, Grace and Fire (1983) and a 1996 reunion, The Guitar Trio.
De Lucía also recorded and toured with his own sextet, which he formed in 1981. Their 1990 album Zyryab featured Chick Corea guesting on piano; Corea and de Lucía had played concerts previously, in 1982.
De Lucía semi-retired from touring about 10 years ago and also largely stopped recording, save for occasional releases.