Today it became known that the famous flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia suddenly died at the age of only 66 years, probably from a heart attack.
I am not an expert on flamenco, but it is a style that has always appealed to me very much, and one of the first flamenco guitarists I ever heard was Paco de Lucia. I didn’t know then that he was also one of the very best flamenco players that ever existed at all.
When I got my fifth degree at music school at my seventeenth (my school used a degrees system that officially ranged from 1 to 6, only they just went to 5 at my particular school) my parents had asked my older brother to go look for a record with some very special guitar playing on it, that I would get for getting this degree.
My brother, not as much into playing guitar as I but always much more the curious listener and researcher for new music, found that famous record ‘Friday Night at San Francisco ’ featuring Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia.
He gave it to me with the words “Just so you don’t go imagining that you’re already really good”. He has always known me very well.
Well, it WAS an eye opener. I never had imagined that guitar playing like this existed in the first place so it set a new – ahem – target.
I mostly preferred the playing of Al Dimeola and Paco de Lucia on that record. Al DiMeola had the clearest tone, but in Paco de Lucia’s playing there was that special Spanish intensity and the specific flamenco melodies and dissonant harmonies that appealed to me.
In hindsight those concerts of course were kind of a tournament in fast guitar playing and not everything in it was musically all that appealing, but to be confronted with something like that at the age of seventeen is hugely impressive.
But hearing Paco de Lucia playing real flamenco is even more impressive. The man could keep up your attention in a ten minute solo piece like this:
Now that’s an immense achievement for any musician.
When listening to Paco de Lucia, you know that he’s someone who captured the very essence of an instrument, that he’s doing what should be done with the instrument. These are the sounds supposed to be coming from it. It all sounds so natural and easy. Until you try it for yourself. Then you discover how much dedication and hours must have gone into this kind of control and creativity. Of course he must have had a great talent, but part of that talent ís the kind of dedication you can put into things as well.
Apart from the great loss this must be for his famlily and friends, there were definitely also many years of musical brilliance that were lost here.
An impressive concert from a longer time ago: