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Farewell: Paco de Lucia

12.21.47-2.26.14

Paco de Lucia
Paco de Lucia (left) and John McLaughlin, 1987

Paco was a radical. He never broke the rules of his musical traditions, but he definitely bent them to accommodate his new perception of harmony and rhythm; he was the first guitarist to integrate improvisation into the mainstream of flamenco. He was heavily criticized by the purists for playing with me, but purists are idiots, and subsequently Paco was lauded for further developing flamenco. He was on the leading edge and had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. What truly impressed me about his playing was his impeccable sense of time and rhythm, and the imagination in his falsetas.

I’ve loved flamenco music since I was 14-the opening piece on the very first Mahavishnu Orchestra album (“Meeting of the Spirits”) is heavily influenced by flamenco-and I actually wanted to become a flamenco guitarist. Where I lived, in England, this was impossible. I was introduced to Paco by hearing him on French radio and I was able to contact him, and we actually met shortly after. I saw the other side of Paco then, that he was a genial person with an irresistible sense of humor. When I had the opportunity to play with Paco in 1978, it was one I couldn’t ignore since I had been unable to find a teacher in flamenco when I was young. I proposed the idea of using three guitarists, the other being Larry Coryell. Paco loved the idea, and we began work right away.

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