As your flamenco singer, I owe you an explanation
José Manuel Gómez Gufi
The curtain goes up and your reviewer suffers a shock. On one side of the stage there are two guitarists and two palmeros, and on the other, three or four square tambourines. Rafael Jiménez Falo appears planted, surrounded by a Gregorian chorus, and we know it’s Gregorian because we were given the aforementioned shock, because the Gregorian chorus is a throwback to the adventures of the percussionist José Antonio Galicía “Gali” who was presented at the Madrid jazz festival in 1985 with Enrique Morente, a Gregorian chorus and numerous other hip things. In those days, this writer was one of the young jazz critics along with Chema García Martínez (we were as visionary and intransigent as Niño de Elche), we loved the avant-garde and following Gali’s projects because surprises were always guaranteed, and he was an endless source of diverse knowledge.
Rafael Jiménez Falo appeared with Gali in 1996 at the Johnny, the Asturian singer was still “searching for himself”, and he would find himself, in his own words, in the year 2000 (after returning to New York) with a generation of musicians and interpreters who, to one degree or another, were featured in the most moving concert seen in this series. And the thing is, it’s not normal that after a concert the star would stand in the middle of the stage like Pepe Isbert: “In my capacity as mayor, I owe you an explanation”. And the audience stayed to applaud that gypsy who then began to list the elements that had come together for the concert, and he told it to us step by step, musician by musician, for more than ten minutes. (Warning to performers: don’t try to copy this, not even at home, you might end up all alone).
Repetition. The curtain goes up, the Gregorian chorus interprets a melody and Falo sings the malagueña of Enrique el Mellizo, confronting the myth with the legend. The chorus disappears and the tambourines shake. He sings a montañesa, a form in danger of extinction that at one time was interpreted by Agujetas el Viejo. Remember that the singer is Asturian. Fade to black. When the lights return we see him with violoncellist José Luis López, and he interprets one of those bone-chilling narrations of José El Negro, a “romance” from oral tradition to which Rafael Jiménez puts a name and surname, taking the opportunity to say he doesn’t accept that thing about “soleá de Alcalá”, and suggests a subtle but significant change to “soleares de Alcalá”.
The thing is the singer put names to all those anonymous styles that have incorporated verses and forms of singing them on the rich flamenco tree, and he began with la Serneta, passing through Juan Talega and family, and paid tribute to the work of Antonio Mairena. And with the musicians he added the experiences afforded by each one, serving as an example the presentation of Roberto Lorente who didn’t skip a beat: “he’s a better singer than me”.
Everything Falo sang had something to grab you, and double meaning, from the soleá to the guajira, passing through some rumba-tangos with one of those melodies that, as soon as it’s repeated, becomes a hymn. Before his master-class he had a little jewel prepared. Fade to black, Rafael Estévez appears seated to interpret in the old style “the hawker” to bulerías in a tribute to Manuel Vallejo (1891/1960). The choreographer danced seated and carried a fabulous sequence of steps that we suspect are faster than those Vallejo could have managed in his time when, in addition to being a well-known singer, he was considered a good dancer as well. It might seem like the same old dance as always, but no, these bulerías are sung in the dialect of Asturias reviving the tradition of the Vaqueiros de Alzada, an expressive ethnic group that was the focus of half the social anthropological studies in Spain and to those whom Rafael Estévez put “jota”. Between one thing and another, you leave the concert feeling duly enthralled and rejuvenated.