While the Savannah Music Festival is known for bringing many of the globe’s best musicians to town, it’s not every day that the Festival brings in an artist who’s actually known for being literally the best musician on their instrument in the world.
But that’s the case with the coming arrival of the great Paco de Lucia to the Trustees Theatre this Saturday, the penultimate concert of this year’s edition of the Festival.
Widely regarded as the greatest living guitarist, de Lucia is also the godfather of Flamenco. While the Spanish/Gypsy folk idiom of Flamenco is a niche interest, de Lucia’s influence has spread far and wide.
Heavy metal guitarists, in particular, worship his blazing fast fretboard work and robust rhythmic technique, muy macho even by the already testosterone–drenched standards of Flamenco.
Jazz guitarists have long valued de Lucia’s ability to combine near–perfection in playing technique with unbridled soul that only seems to get more intense with age.
The 64–year–old maestro is simultaneously the caretaker of a great musical tradition and a great innovator as well: He was perhaps the first Flamenco guitarist to depart significantly from age–old folkways and cross over to play with jazz and classical musicians.
While such musical cross–pollination is commonplace, even expected, today, when de Lucia first tweaked Flamenco for a changing world in the 1970s — playing with titans such as John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, and Al Di Meola — it was considered a bold gesture, especially among the purists of the art form (and in case you don’t know, a Flamenco purist is a purist indeed).
There was even a “beef” of sorts between the then–young de Lucia and the titan of traditional Flamenco at the time, Sabicas (single–names a la Prince and Madonna being as common in Flamenco as elsewhere, especially among artists of Gypsy origin), who regarded de Lucia’s explorations as bordering on a betrayal of tradition.
“At some point I was thought of as sacrilegious, and now it turns out I’m a master,” de Lucia has said, displaying typical swagger.
In all, not a bad career for someone who reportedly couldn’t read music until his 50s, when he famously recorded Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, the seminal classical guitar composition. De Lucia remains a testament to the virility of folk music all over the world, traditions which are less dependent on rarified academic settings and more reliant on seeing and hearing songs in person, taking what you like and leaving the rest.
The maestro himself put it best when he said that Flamenco is “the music around you, made by people you see, the people you make music with. You learn it from your family, from your friends, at a party. And then you work on technique. Guitarists do not need to study... You must understand that a Gypsy’s life is a life of anarchy. That is a reason why the way of Flamenco music is a way without the discipline, as you know it. We don’t try to organize things with our minds; we don’t go to school to find out. We just live...”
Paco de Lucia
When: Sat. April 7, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Trustees Theater