The legacy of Paco de Lucía is extraordinary; this is a guitarist who had the same kind of impact on flamenco as Andrés Segovia had on classical music in the early part of the twentieth century or Jimi Hendrix had on mid-sixties rock. Sadly, it wasn’t until the autumn of 1999, when I wandered into a small, independent record shop in Las Vegas (now almost certainly defunct), that I discovered this exceptional artist for the first time as I thumbed through the racks.
Born Francisco Sánchez Gómez in Algeciras (province of Cádiz) in 1947, Paco de Lucía saw his career take off in 1967 with the release of his debut solo album La fabulosa guitarra de Paco de Lucía and an appearance at the Berlin Jazz Festival which that year included Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis.
De Lucía’s early encounter with jazz was pivotal, exercising a constant fascination throughout his career which allowed him most notably to re-imagine flamenco on the global stage. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he collaborated with some of the greatest ‘fusion’ musicians of that period including Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Larry Coryell and Al Di Meola.
Luzia, his antepenultimate studio album released in 1998, is probably for me his crowning achievement. It may lack the bold experimentation of Almoraima (1976) or the high-noon brilliance of Siroco (1987), but offers instead something even more extraordinary – a sober, reflective journey into the very hinterlands of flamenco itself. In this album, de Lucía defies his critics by providing us with a sublime achievement in which questions of authenticity are not just rendered as tiresomely irrelevant but are utterly effaced.
Dedicated to his dying Portuguese mother, Lúcia Gomes, Luzia exhibits not only passion (both immediate and recollected) but also astonishing poignancy and pathos. The opening track, the bulerias ‘Rio de La Miel’ establishes the authority and stature of the artist immediately. In short, we are captured!
In a world gone mad, to listen to Luzia in the late evening with a rich rioja (or equivalent), whether with an intimate or alone, offers perhaps a rare glimpse into the possibility of entering a different realm in which courtesy and civility go hand in hand.
[NB The track below is offered in the lossless FLAC format which is now supported by most recent browsers and operating systems.]