Paco de Lucía (born Francisco Sánchez Gómez on 21 December 1947, died on 26 February 2014) was a Spanish flamenco guitarist, composer and producer. A leading proponent of the New Flamenco style, he is one of the first flamenco guitarists who has also successfully crossed over into other genres of music such as classical and jazz. Richard Chapman and Eric Clapton, authors of Guitar: Music, History, Players, describe de Lucía as a "titanic figure in the world of flamenco guitar", and Dennis Koster, author of Guitar Atlas, Flamenco, has referred to de Lucía as "one of history's greatest guitarists".
De Lucía is noted for his innovation and colour in harmony and his remarkable dexterity, technique, strength and fluidity in his right hand, capable of executing extremely fast and fluent picados. A master of contrast, he often juxtaposes picados with rasgueados and other techniques and often adds abstract chords and scale tones to his compositions with jazz influences. These innovations saw him play a key role in the development of traditional Flamenco and the evolution of New Flamenco and Latin jazz fusion from the 1970s.
De Lucía achieved acclaim for his recordings with flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla in the 1970s, recording 10 albums together. Some of his best known recordings include "Río Ancho" (later fused with Al Di Meola's "Mediterranean Sundance"), "Entre dos aguas", "La Barrosa", "Ímpetu", "Cepa Andaluza" and "Gloria al Niño Ricardo". His collaborations with guitarists John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Larry Coryell in the late 1970s saw him gain wider popularity outside his native Spain.
De Lucia formed the Paco de Lucía Sextet in 1981 with his brothers, singer Pepe de Lucía and guitarist Ramón de Algeciras, and collaborated with jazz pianist Chick Corea on their 1990 album, Zyryab. In 1983 he appeared in Carlos Saura's film Carmen, for which he was also nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Film Score. In 1992, he performed live at Expo '92 in Seville and a year later on the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.
In 2004, he won the Prince of Asturias Awards in Arts and in 2010, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Berklee College of Music in Boston. Since 2004 he has greatly reduced his live performances in public, has retired from full touring, and now typically only gives several concerts a year, usually in Spain and Germany and at European festivals during the summer months. In 2005, he was nominated for producer of the year by the Latin Grammy Award for La Tana's Tu, Ven a Mi album.
Paco de Lucía was born Francisco Sánchez Gómez in Algeciras, a city near the far southeastern point of Spain in the province of Cádiz. He is the youngest of the five children of flamenco guitarist Antonio Sánchez and Portuguese mother Lucía Gómez; his brothers include flamenco singer, Pepe de Lucía, and flamenco guitarist, Ramón de Algeciras (now deceased). Playing in the streets as a young boy, there were many Pacos and Pablos in Algeciras, and he wanted to honor his Portuguese mother Lucía Gómez, so he adopted the stage name Paco de Lucía.
His father Antonio received guitar lessons from the hand of a cousin of Melchor de Marchena: Manuel Fernandez "Titi de Marchena", a guitarist who arrived in Algeciras in the 1920s and established a school there. Antonio introduced Paco to the guitar at a young age and was extremely strict in his upbringing from the age of 5, forcing him to practice up to 12 hours a day, every day, to ensure that he could find success as a professional musician. At one point, his father took him out of school to concentrate solely on his guitar development. Flamenco guitarist and biographer Donn Pohren and record producer José Torregrosa compared Paco's relationship with his father to the relationship of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Leopold Mozart in the way both fathers "moulded their sons" into becoming world-class musicians, and both continued to dictate even after they became famous. Paco's brother Ramón idolized Niño Ricardo, and taught his complex falsetas to his young brother, who would learn them with relative ease and change them to his own liking and embellish them. This angered Ramón initially who considered Ricardo's works to be sacred and thought his brother was showing off, but he soon came to immensely respect his brother and came to realize that he was a prodigious talent and a "fuera de serie", a special person. Like his brother, Ricardo was Paco's most important influence, and his first guitar hero; Paco said that "all of us youngsters would look up to him, trying to learn from him and copy him." In 1958, at age 11, Paco made his first public appearance on Radio Algeciras. That year, he met Sabicas for the first time in Malaga. A year later, he was awarded a special prize at the Festival Concurso International Flamenco de Jerez de la Frontera flamenco competition.
In the early 1960s, de Lucía toured with the flamenco troupe of dancer José Greco. In New York City in 1963, at the age of 15, he had his second encounter with Sabicas and his first encounter with Mario Escudero, both of whom became Paco's mentors and later close friends. They urged him to start writing his own material, advice which he took to heart. In 1964, he met Madrileño guitarist Ricardo Modrego with whom he recorded three albums: Dos guitarras flamencas (1964), 12 canciones de García Lorca para guitarra and 12 éxitos para 2 guitarras flamencas (1965). His early albums were traditional flamenco recordings and he also recorded classics such as "Malagueña" on the 12 éxitos para 2 guitarras flamencas album. He toured again with José Greco in 1966 and recorded "Ímpetu", a bulerias composed by Mario Escudero, for his debut solo album, the 1967 album La fabulosa guitarra de Paco de Lucía. He also appeared at the 1967 Berlin Jazz Festival. According to Gerhard Klingenstein, top jazz musicians who appeared at the festival such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk had a profound influence on Paco, and started a deep fascination for jazz in him which has remained with him ever since.
In the late 1960s, de Lucía toured Europe with a group called Festival Flamenco Gitano and encountered other new talents in the flamenco world including singer Camarón de la Isla, with whom he enjoyed a fruitful collaboration between 1968 and 1977. The two recorded 10 albums together and received considerable acclaim. Richard Nidel said that their partnership was "central to the history of flamenco in the last quarter of the twentieth century." Organizers began offering de Lucía lucrative contracts for concert tours in 1967, which he declined as he preferred to tour in company, which he did with his brother Ramón, de la Isla and other musicians. De Lucía recorded many albums with his brother, including Canciones andaluzas para 2 guitarras (1967), Dos guitarras flamencas en América Latina (1967), Fantasía flamenca de Paco de Lucía (1969), and 12 Hits para 2 guitarras flamencas y orquesta de cuerda (1969). They met Esteban Sanlucar in Buenos Aires and Juan Serrano in Detroit, and during 1970 spent considerable time in New York City where they grew close to Sabicas and Mario Escudero, playing together into the night.
De Lucía made a cameo appearance, dressed as a Mexican guitarist, in the 1971 western Hannie Caulder, playing the melody of Ken Thorne's main theme over a string section. That year, he released the album El mundo del flamenco, which included a version of Mario Escudero's "Ímpetu", a bulerías. Guitar International mentioned his "very aggressive" approach to playing Ímpetu. Escudero was a major influence on Paco during this period, inspiring him to explore new possibilities for flamenco. He began working with record producer José Torregrosa.
De Lucía's 1972 release El duende flamenco de Paco de Lucía was considered a groundbreaking album in the flamenco community. As the 1970s progressed, Paco continued to produce groundbreaking masterpiece albums and ventured into an increasingly unconventional and innovative style of flamenco with jazz influences. His next release, Fuente y caudal, acclaimed particularly for his "Entre dos aguas", which has become arguably his best-known composition, and also for "Solera" and "Cepa Andaluza". "Entre dos aguas", a rumba featuring bongos with an electric bass, means "Between Two Waters," referring to Paco's home town of Algeciras, located where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. Biographer Pohren describes "Cepa Andaluza" as a "phenomenal" bulerías, which is "accompanied by palmas, shouts of encouragement and general jaleo, and makes one want to leap up and dance." The album also features several other tracks named after Andalusian landmarks, a theme which Paco would continue in his later albums. The Fuente y caudal album was one of the best-selling Spanish records for several months and de Lucía and Torregrosa found that the additional instruments and approach of the album away from traditional flamenco proved more popular with the general public. The early influences of the traditional players became increasingly less apparent as De Lucía embraced jazz and other influences, creating his own voice and distinct style, yet never venturing too far from his roots.
The Guitar Trio continued touring in 1980. De Lucía reportedly suffered from headaches and backaches while performing because he found it difficult to improvise and follow McLaughlin and Coryell's advanced knowledge of jazz improvisation. Paco professed, "Some people assume that they were learning from me, but I can tell you it was me learning from them. I have never studied music, I am incapable of studying harmony - I don't have the discipline, playing with McLaughlin and Di Meola was about learning these things." In 1981, Coryell was replaced with Di Meola, and The Guitar Trio released one of their most successful records, Friday Night in San Francisco, which sold over 1 million copies and generated a significant interest in flamenco music in America and Europe. It featured an extended combination of "Mediterranean Sundance" and "Río Ancho"; this became arguably the piece most associated with the musicians. De Lucía also formed the Paco de Lucía Sextet in 1981 (which included his brothers Ramón and Pepe) and released the first of its three albums that same year. On August 30, 1981, de Lucía performed a solo set at St. Goarshausen in Germany in which he performed "Monasterio de Sal" and "Montino" among others and later performed with The Guitar Trio. The event was broadcast on national WDR television.
In 1982, Paco put on a series of concerts with jazz pianist Chick Corea. Corea was a considerable influence on him in the 1980s and he and McLaughlin adapted a version of his piece "Spain", performing it live together several times in the mid to late 1980s. He released a "Golden" double compilation album in 1982, La Guitarra de Oro de Paco de Lucia, covering Paco's earliest recordings with Ricardo Modrego of Federico Garcia Lorca songs to date, and featured two siguiriyas, a flamenco form in which he hadn't indulged in his recordings since 1972. In 1983, the Trio released Passion, Grace & Fire, and he had an acting role in Carlos Saura's highly acclaimed film Carmen, for which he was also nominated for a BAFTA Film Award for Best Score. He also composed original film scores for several films in the 1980s, including The Hit, a 1984 film in which he provided the soundtrack with Eric Clapton, with a minor contribution by Roger Waters. On his 1984 album, Live... One Summer Night, De Lucía not only played guitar, but also filled the role of producer. Paco de Lucía has also appeared as himself on television in documentaries and TV shows and accepted a position as a judge at Seville's 1984 Biena.
By the mid-1980s, both the Sextet and the Guitar Trio had reached its plateau and stopped performing together, although de Lucía would continue to perform with McLaughlin as a duo across Europe in 1986 and later. In a 1986 interview with Down Beat magazine, Di Meola said that the reason for the breakdown was that their performances were designed to "drive the audience berserk" with a display of astonishing virtuosity and that they had run out of new spectacular fast runs to impress the audiences. Di Meola remarked that the music had become too "wild and crazy" and that he preferred to explore the quieter side of music, something which Paco also felt, saying that he preferred "controlled expression to velocity." In May 1986, he performed at the Centro de Bellas Artes Rock music festival alongside the likes of Earl Klugh, Spyro Gyra, and Dave Valentin. In 1987, de Lucía performed for the first time in the Soviet Union, and went back to his roots with his highly successful release, Siroco. Siroco is often cited as his best album and one of the greatest flamenco albums of all time. His compositions "La Cañada", the opening track which is a tango, "La Barrosa", an alegrías named after the Playa la Barrosa in the province of Cadiz, and "Gloria al Niño Ricardo", a soléa, received considerable attention and are considered to be modern flamenco classics. Eric Clapton and Richard Chapman described "La Barrosa", a sweet alegrías played in the key of B major, as "full of effortless delicacy with cascading phrases". "Gloria al Niño Ricardo" is dedicated to Niño Ricardo who was de Lucía's "first hero" of the guitar. Several of his compositions from that album form the staple of his contemporary concert performances, and he often begins his concerts with "La Cañada". In 1989, de Lucía performed at the bullring in Seville with Plácido Domingo and Julio Iglesias, against his own will.
Although the sextet had declined after 1986, in 1990 they got together to record Zyryab, a groundbreaking Arabic flamenco/jazz album with jazz pianist Chick Corea and fellow virtuoso flamenco guitarist Manolo Sanlúcar. The album is named after Ziryab, a 8th-9th century Shiraz-born poet/musician at the Umayyad court in Córdoba, credited with introducing to Spain the Persian lute, later to become the Spanish guitar, and according to some, established flamenco itself. One track on the album, a tarantas, is dedicated to Sabicas. The album was critically well-received; Jazz Times praised the passion and rhythm of the musicians featuring on the album.
Until asked to perform and interpret Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez in 1991, de Lucía was not proficient at reading musical notation. Biographer Pohren, however, at the time of writing his biography in 1992, said that he was still not proficient and had found a bizarre way of learning the piece, locking himself away. His performance with the orchestra under Edmon Colomer was highly acclaimed, a sensitive, atmospheric rendition which composer Rodrigo himself praised, describing it as "pretty, exotic, inspired" and saying "I might add that Paco plays it with a great deal of feeling, far more than is normally heard. And that goes for the orchestra that backs him up." In 1992, he performed live at the bullring at Expo '92 in Seville, and a year later on the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, playing "La Barrosa". In 1995, he recorded with Bryan Adams the hit song and video "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman" on the soundtrack for the movie Don Juan DeMarco. In 1996, his first "golden hits" album, Antología, was in the top 20 in Spain for at least 16 weeks, selling over 65,000 copies. In 1997, de Lucía performed in a tribute show to assassinated Spanish politician Miguel Angel Blanco, alongside the likes of Julio Iglesias and Los Del Rio. In 1998 he released and produced Luzia.
De Lucía lived for five years in Yucatan, Mexico, but returned to his native Spain in 2003 after professing to have become really tired with spending his whole life touring for six to eight months a year, getting up at the crack of dawn and living in hotels. However, in 2004 he did tour the United States and Canada with Seville flamenco singer La Tana, but has since greatly reduced his live performances in public, has retired from touring, and now typically only gives several concerts a year, usually in Spain and Germany and at European festivals during the summer months. Pohren describes de Lucía as "extremely timid and retiring", saying that "being a very private person, [he] was dismayed at the ensuing popularity and lionization, and the increased pressure fame placed upon his shoulders, demanding that he constantly innovate and work harder to achieve technical and revolutionary perfection".
In 2003, de Lucía released Integral (2003), a 26 CD Limited Edition Box Set, and Por Descubrir, a compilation album. In 2004, de Lucía released Cositas Buenas with Javier Limón. It was released on "Blue Thumb Records", by Universal Music Spain S.L., and features four bulerías, two rumba tracks, a tangos and a tientos. It won the Latin Grammy for Best Flamenco Album 2004. In 2005, he was nominated for producer of the year by the Latin Grammy Award for La Tana's Tu, Ven a Mi, which was De Lucía's first recording where he directed another artist since working on Camarón de la Isla's Potro de rabia y miel.
In 2004, he won the Prince of Asturias Awards in Arts, and on 23 March 2007, the University of Cadiz recognized de Lucía's musical and cultural contributions by conferring on him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa. In 2010, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Berklee College of Music in Boston, and performed at the Montreux Festival. However, he is known some years to select countries where he doesn't usually perform and played in Pula, Croatia in 2006 and 2010, and performed in Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia in the summer of 2013. He appeared at the 49th Carthage International Festival on 31 July, playing at the Roman Theatre of Carthage. De Lucía resides in Majorca.
De Lucía is widely considered to be the world's premier flamenco guitarist and by many to be Spain's greatest musical export. He has had a revolutionary influence on flamenco music both as a composer and otherwise. His influence on flamenco guitar has been compared with that of Andrés Segovia's on classical guitar. His album Fuente y Caudal (Fountain and Flow) has been cited by many to have changed the world of flamenco guitar beyond traditional flamenco culture. Along with Enrique Morente and Camarón de la Isla, de Lucía was the first artist to break away from traditional flamenco and form what is now known as nuevo flamenco. As a composer, de Lucía was the first Spanish artist to mix jazz with Andalusian music in a more or less systematic way. This includes, but is not limited to, his collaborations with Di Meola, McLaughlin, and Pedro Iturralde.
De Lucía was influenced primarily by Niño Ricardo, who is considered to be one of the leading figures in the history of flamenco guitar, and Sabicas, who is regarded as the most influential in the development and refinement of the flamenco guitar as a concert instrument at a time when the guitar was an instrument to accompany the singer. Sabicas was an important mentor for de Lucía in the development of his flamenco guitar technique and also as a composer, characterized by melodic structure, rhythmic and harmonic, perfectly consistent from beginning to end, and non-lyrical phrased guitar falsetas when the singer stops singing. Esteban de Sanlucar and Mario Escudero were also a major influence on him and a source of inspiration. According to biographer Pohren, de Lucía was "fascinated with jazz" and held a deep respect for high-tech jazz musicians, regarding Di Meola, McLaughlin, Coryell and Corea as highly as musicians as he did his flamenco mentors. Despite these influences, according to the Jazz Times, "Most flamenco fans can trace the music's history to either Before Paco or After Paco".
Richard Chapman and Eric Clapton describe de Lucía as a "titanic figure in the world of flamenco guitar", highlighting his "astounding technique and inventiveness" and his broad range of musical ideas from other styles, such as Brazilian music and jazz. He is noted for his innovation and colour in harmony and his remarkable dexterity, technique, strength and fluidity in his right hand, capable of executing extremely fast and fluent picados. A master of contrast, he often juxtaposes picados with rasgueados and other techniques and often adds abstract chords and scale tones to his compositions with jazz influences. Craig Harris of AllMusic noted his "deeply personal melodic statements and modern instrumentation." Atlanta magazine said, "The guitar, when used properly, can be one of the most haunting and beautiful instruments to create sound ... when he brushes his fingers across the strings, [he] can create some of the most incredible music. It's almost like a lullaby.
Another one of his contributions has been the inclusion of the cajón, an Afro-Peruvian instrument which Caitro Soto exposed him to during his visit to Peru in the late 1970s. De Lucía understood this instrument, which he saw as a permanent solution to the need for requiring percussion in flamenco. Along with Rubem Dantas, he added its percussive elements and over time, it became an essential tool of contemporary flamenco and later, other international musical trends.
Dos guitarras flamencas en stereo (1964) with Ricardo Modrego
12 canciones de García Lorca para guitarra (1965) with Ricardo Modrego
12 éxitos para 2 guitarras flamencas (1965) with Ricardo Modrego
La fabulosa guitarra de Paco de Lucía (1967)
Canciones andaluzas para 2 guitarras (1967) with Ramón de Algeciras
Dos guitarras flamencas en América Latina (1967) with Ramón de Algeciras
Fantasía flamenca de Paco de Lucía (1969)
Paco de Lucía y Ramón de Algeciras en Hispanoamérica (1969) with Ramón de Algeciras
12 Hits para 2 guitarras flamencas y orquesta de cuerda (1969) with Ramón de Algeciras
El mundo del flamenco (1971)
Recital de guitarra de Paco de Lucía (1971)
El duende flamenco de Paco de Lucía (1972)
Fuente y caudal (1973)
Interpreta a Manuel de Falla (1978)
Castro Marín (1981) with Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin
Sólo quiero caminar (1981) The Paco de Lucía Sextet
Passion, Grace and Fire (1983) with Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin
Concierto de Aranjuez (1991)
The Guitar Trio (1996) with Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin
Cositas buenas (2004)
En vivo desde el Teatro Real (1975)
Friday Night in San Francisco (1981) with Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin
Live... One Summer Night (1984) The Paco de Lucía Sextet
Live recordings (1987) with George Dalaras
Live in América (1993) The Paco de Lucía Sextet
En Vivo (Conciertos España 2010)
Entre dos aguas (1975)
Antología (1995) - 2 cd
Integral (2003) 26 CD Limited Edition Box Set
Por Descubrir (2003).
Sources: Last.fm, Wikipedia
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