Most flamenco fans can trace the music’s history to either Before Paco or After Paco, such is Paco de Lucia’s influence on the music. On his newest CD, Cositas Buenas (Blue Thumb), he once again pushes the music forward by looking to the past.
Flamenco purists vilify de Lucia for incorporating classical, Afro-Cuban and jazz elements into his music yet no one can deny his prodigious knowledge of the music’s traditions or his ability to perform it like no other guitarist before him. He insists all of his musical explorations and innovations are based on a solid commitment to flamenco tradition. “Everything I have heard has influenced me as a musician. But I have been careful about putting it in the music-my flamenco is not a fusion. I have always been careful that it doesn’t lose the essence and the roots and the traditions of flamenco. I have incorporated other styles, but they have not altered the philosophy of my music.”
His connection to jazz audiences was made via a series of very popular recordings with jazz guitarists Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin in the early 1980s. Despite the accolades, de Lucia says making the music was not as easy as it seemed. “I went through a period where my back ached and my head hurt after some of those concerts” he confesses. “I did very poorly the first night of those concerts. I was trying to identify the chords they were playing. But when I found one chord, they were then playing other chords. I didn’t know there was a formula.” But he says the personal and musical growth from that experience was invaluable. “It made me happy because I discovered a new world. It was something that I think all musicians should go through and experience. It is a marvelous thing.”
Cositas Buenas features flamenco vocalists, and de Lucia says flamenco singing is the purest form of the art yet the most difficult for audiences to grasp. “Outside of Spain very few people appreciate the singing because it is more complex, more difficult to understand. I have always been a frustrated singer. But I never wanted to try to sing. Instead I hid behind the guitar because the guitar was the star, not me.”