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October 2008

Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra
The Scent of Light
SSRI

Flamenco guitarist Ottmar Liebert returns with his first full studio album in four years, and the tangos, the rumba, all the lightning-fast fingerpicking and flamenco brush-style strokes are here, along with the finger snaps, shakers, palmas and elongated bass rhythms. It’s funny, not funny ha-ha, that when Liebert debuted in 1990 his nouveau flamenco sounds freshened a creaky smooth-jazz format, and he was rewarded with more than two million copies sold. Now, 22 albums later, Liebert has unleashed his muse in a number of settings, both pleasant and often dissonant, and has positioned himself as wanting to duplicate his initial success or pleasing his followers. Liebert plays what he wants. He may suffer in sales, but you can’t say the guitarist has grown fat and happy with a metronomic groove.

That said, The Scent of Light has enough nouveau flamenco to satisfy old-time fans, such as with “Up Close: Beginning” and the charming “Streetlight.” Liebert sets the album up as a narrative, as the 10 tracks are his responses to various places the German-born Santa Fe resident has visited, like “Firelight” (Grenada), a reggae-tinged ride. And “Silence: No More Laughing” (Utah), a gorgeous piece that seduces with Liebert’s technique for almost eight of its 11 minutes before Luna Negra enters with a strong presence.

The Scent of Light isn’t as commercial as Liebert’s early best-sellers, but it’s better and musically more fulfilling.

Originally published in October 2008
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