The passing of the legendary Paco de Lucía has left a void on the flamenco scene. by Jason Webster
Following the death of Paco de Lucía in February 2014, the inevitable question is being asked about who is, or might eventually be, the next great flamenco guitarist—“the next Paco?”
It is not an easy one to answer.
De Lucía casts a long shadow, and phrases like “the next so-and-so” are lazy and rarely accurate. What’s more, factors beyond an extraordinary talent helped to usher in the musical revolution of which de Lucía was a fundamental part. These factors included the presence of other “greats” (the singer Camarón de la Isla, for example) and the enormous social changes that Spain was undergoing during the 1970s and 1980s. The advent of nuevo flamenco, of which de Lucía was a major figure, had much to do with the right people being in the right place at the right time. Perhaps not for several generations will anyone be able to bring about an equally powerful change in the art form (for more on Lucia, see Jennifer Laurie’s interview from our April 1996 issue).
Nonetheless, you can take a look to see who, if anyone, is pushing boundaries and keeping alive the spirit of experimentation from solid foundations that de Lucía embodied. There are several candidates, and two names stand out at the moment: Miguel Angel Cortés and Dani de Morón.
For several years now, Vicente Amigo also has been mentioned as the carrier of the flame. Yet despite his technical brilliance and solid background, his work has rarely had the power to engage emotionally in the way of his predecessors. Crossovers between his music and the chill-out scene only seem to confirm his style as a kind of “elevator” flamenco—pleasant enough, but ultimately unchallenging. His latest recording, Tierra (2013), shows little sign of significant change.
More recently, Manuel Parilla, nephew of the Parrilla de Jerez, who used to play with the legendary Paquera de Jerez, has finally recorded an album, Pa Mi Gente (2014), after years of accompanying such artists as La Tati and Joaquín Cortés. Yet if something new and exciting were expected from a player who has grown up in one of the most important Flamenco families, then sadly there is scant evidence of it here. Parrilla’s muscular style may work well when married to a dancer or singer, but on its own, his playing lacks texture and subtlety or even the playful sound you expect from Jerez, creating an album that ultimately leans towards the monotonous.
In contrast, Dani de Morón, a young player from Seville, continues to show that there is still much new ground to be broken and avenues to be explored. His 2012 album Cambio de Sentido demonstrated that a fresh and exciting talent had arrived on the scene, managing—as Dorantes has done in recent years on the piano—to push his instrument towards new territory while retaining flamenco depth, or jondura, and avoiding the trap of straying into jazz. His next recording, when it comes out, will be highly anticipated, but in the meantime watch this video of a Seguiriya he performed recently in Barcelona—it is one of the best renditions of this emotionally complex and difficult palo you can hear.
Another reason to be optimistic for the future of flamenco guitar is the aforementioned Granada-born Miguel Angel Cortés. Despite being something of a veteran—he played on Enrique Morente’s groundbreaking 1996 album Omega—Cortés is maturing like a fine wine. His multi layered and highly polished album El Calvario de un Genio (2013) is one of the best flamenco recordings to have come out in the past couple of years and marks him as one of the new stars.
And on the horizon?
José Quevado Bolita’s 2013 album Fluye shows real promise. Others to watch out for in future include Jesús Guerrero, Santiago Lara, and Eduardo Trassierra.
Paco de Lucía may no longer be with us, but what he helped to put in motion looks set to continue. As long as the new generation can step out from his shadow, the future for flamenco guitar looks bright. I hope, wherever he is right now, that the master is smiling at the prospect.
Jason Webster is the author of several books about Spain including, Duende.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Classical Guitar magazine.
The issue also features Sharon Isbin, Frantz Casseus, a special focus on guitar festivals & competitions, and much more. Click here for more information on the issue.