New CD of Manuel Moreno “El Pele”
The recipe is eight guitars, a piano and one surprising veteran singer who returns to a market which lately has been short on both surprises and veterans. Manuel Moreno Maya, from Córdoba, was born four years after Camarón, and one before José Mercé, that prodigious generation of transition from classic to contemporary that has given us powerful and knowledgeable singers, respectful of the art and anxious to explore its possibilities.
This new recording, called “8 Guitarras…y un Piano”, by the singer known as “El Pele”, is the product of that background. Years ago, in an interview, El Pele denounced the constraints record companies wished to impose on him, but now he has come to demonstrate that a singer with personality, knowledge and compás, backed up by good music, need only sing in his own way in order to put out one of the best flamenco recordings of recent years.
The interesting fashion of using a variety of guitarists, which here gives the title of the recording, adds vitality and dimension to a sincere and straightforward piece of work. The record begins with taranta and cartagenera, with the beautiful accompaniment of Miguel Ángel Cortés, and we are immediately immersed in the characteristic Pele sound. The inspiration is Manolo Caracol, true enough, but delivered in an absolutely personal way, with an unsettling sweetness that turns acrid when you least expect it, and a carefully cultivated psychic instability, very apt for flamenco, and which is this singer’s calling card.
The perfect compromise between creativity and classicism
A bulerías ballad, “Alfonsina y el Mar”, accompanied by young Daniel Méndez, and then, Juan Carlos Romero provides the guitar backup for soleá, a cante Pele interprets with the wisdom of an old man and the fresh instinctive touch that characterizes his style. Bulerías dedicated to Vicente Amigo, has all the aroma of Jerez, mostly thanks to the guitar of Moraíto, and once again Pele finds the perfect terrain between creativity and classicism.
“Fandangos personales”, and never was music more aptly named, once again with Moraíto on guitar. Seguiriya and cabal at a greatly accelerated tempo and with alternative tuning, that’s the seguiriyas package in 2008, and wise Córdoba guitarist, José Antonio Rodríguez, makes it work. The velocity is understated affording tension without subtracting depth, although there may be a slight overuse of jazz harmony for some people’s taste.
It seems apt to call Pele’s cantiñas “authored” to describe what he does with this particular form. Who could forget that wonderful creation “Sobre la playa llueve…” that has remained as a new classic in a cante form that does not lend itself to updating? Diego del Morao provides guitar accompaniment, and Pele, the inspired creativity.
A song in the style of Caracol, but passed through a contemporary prism, sung to the piano of the CD’s title, that of David Peña “Dorantes”, with the collaboration of María Toledo, the most daring experiment on the record, see-saws between free-form rhythm and the characteristic mixed compás of flamenco, and the record comes to a close with a malagueña titled “Carihuela”, accompanied by Niño de Pura and sung with unexpected delicacy – Pele has a specific delivery for every occasion – and a female chorus rounds out the recording with a stylized rondeña.
El Pele has been a cult figure in certain circles for years, but for many, he is still a singer to be discovered. “8 Guitarras…y un Piano” is an excellent vehicle to get to know the unsettling inner life of this unusual singer.
El Pele at the Bienal de Amsterdam