Vicente Amigo «Un momento en el sonido»
Texto: Carlos Ledermann
After five years without recording solo, Vicente Amigo is back, to the delight of his numerous fans, not only in Spain, but throughout the world. The fact is, in just a few years this guitarist has become a universal figure, thanks to many factors too numerous to mention, the most important of which is, without any doubt, his extraordinary talent. Vicente is capable of producing music the listeners of the world, from any musical vein and any artistic tendency are able to understand. And they can sing or whistle it which is quite something, considering these are essential sounds, not chipper three-minute love-songs like most musical idols play these days.
The wait hasn’t seemed that long, probably because Vicente has maintained a presence over the years in many recordings, leaving his unmistakable mark on each one, a mark which immediately identifies him or those who have assumed his approach as their own, who have adopted his musical language and bravely cultivated it, and of course we come along afterwards to say “he plays like Vicente”, or speak of “Amigo influences”. But make no mistake, Vicente Amigo, one way or another, is an omnipresent figure in the world of flamenco music.
Vicente opens his new record with plenty of percussion and bass in the rumba with “Demipati”. This piece, its musical turns and ideas, thematic development and embellishments, could only be his, because the tempo and delivery basically hark back to “De mi Corazón al Aire”, since for all practical purposes Vicente’s three rumbas are nearly identical. It may be less straightforward than in the earlier ones, but not actually that complex. The instrumental back-up is impeccable and the choruses add a festive touch, but with that certain necessary angst as well. The piece begins with some syncopated arpeggios that morph nicely into what follows. The crisp, violent, base-sounding closings which are Vicente’s trademark, in addition to the personal intervals you always find in his melodies, are generously present here. The chorus repeats their bit and the rumba closes out after a couple of interesting variations, wonderfully complemented by Tino di Geraldo’s percussion.
The bulería “Campo de la Verdad” opens with a nostalgic sound, very much the Metheny style, and it’s surprising, not to mention disconcerting, because the compás of bulerías doesn’t appear until a quarter of the piece has gone by. The arpeggio as a basic element has always been used by Vicente in his bulerías and this is another of his personal trademarks, as well as some electrifying strumming. With some lovely verses, Potito’s singing lends the needed texture within the framework of a dedication to bullfighter José Tomás. Now and again you have the feeling that Vicente summons his own self in memory, consciously or unconsciously, in passages from “Gitano de Lucía” from his first recording. The variations of attractively varied colors and sounds blend together in the end with the bass and the voices, overlaying guitar embellishments, a bit like Manolo Sanlúcar in “Puerta del Príncipe”. The direct ending is welcome as opposed to having resorted to a fade-out.
“Mezquita” is the title of a magnificent soleá whose beginning is also unsettling if you don’t pay careful attention to the timing (four quarter-notes) of each pulsation, so what happens is, not only are the measures continually developing from 1 to 12, but the melodic arc of the arpeggio initially seems to send the listener in another direction, far from the essence of soleá no matter how much the configuration of quarter-notes resembles the traditional arrangement of this form. Perhaps for this reason, the moment Vicente resolves this riddle in basic soleá, it’s surprisingly gratifying. From that point on, with the capo on 1, the interpretation becomes stronger and more substantial, both melodically and rhythmically, and Vicente’s strumming actually underlines everything that is going on, even when it occurs within a melodic interval, between beats 6 and 10, or when he inserts it in swift interjections between beats 1 and 3. Another resource he employs with great skill is the arpeggio with the index finger dragged in just one beat. Some of the phrasing is reminiscent of the bulería “Asesinato” which Paco de Lucía recorded years ago with his brother Pepe in a tribute to Federico García Lorca, and another moment recalls the soleá “Plaza Alta”, also by Paco, but make no mistake: it’s extraordinarily difficult to extract influences from the guitarist from Algeciras, and moreso for someone like Vicente who “blames” Paco for being the reason he plays guitar. Towards the end of this wonderful composition, the opening motif reappears to close out in the most unlikely fashion imaginable, nothing prepared or predictable, just an interruption.
The recording continues with “Tangos del Arco Bajo”, which starts out with a very clear rhythmic base such as that heard in the now world-famous “Sólo Compás”, and continues with the appearance of the guitar in melodic lines woven of wrought-iron, then closings, one of those strums of his (is it possible he still has finger-nails after that?) and the cante begins, we don’t know whether by mere coincidence, or deliberately reminiscent of El Pele, and some catchy choruses, and more filigree, flamenco, clean, contagious and these tangos are over all too soon, possibly because they are the second shortest piece of the record, but also an extremely fresh and welcome moment.
In “Bolero a Marcos” dedicated to his little boy, Metheny’s sound once again becomes evident, but it’s short-lived when Ariel Hernández’ majestic bandoneón bursts upon the scene, fantastic flirtation, hallucinogenic, between Buenos Aires and Paris, supported by some great notes from the double-bass and on top of it all, with it all and behind it all, once again the flamenco guitar of Vicente, mischievous, unsettling, releasing a kind of music we can’t quite define as flamenco, but certainly very sentimental. The end result is a beautiful piece which could have been on any other record of any kind of music from any part of the world, from other roots and traditions, and it would still be a beautiful work.
The fifth piece, the farruca “Silia y el Tiempo”, brings back a style that is little recorded nowadays. In dance shows it appears often enough, but in guitarists’ repertoires it has suffered an undeserved lack of attention which other flamenco forms have escaped. Special recognition then to Vicente for including it on this record, and to Juan Carlos Romero for doing it on his as well. In the traditional key of A minor, with a lighter touch than usual, it’s a very suggestive theme, rich in rhythmic interest and harmonic colors, which is moving, pleasing and invites one to clap along softly, the sound which is included from the second half on. Once again, the bandoneón, adding some spectacular notes, embellishments, sounds, colors and Vicente even lets slip a closing with the aroma of Huelva. Warm, entertaining, melodically beautiful.
“Oriente Mediterráneo” is the zapateado which comes next. Similar in his intentions to “Vivencias Imaginadas”, Vicente plays this piece even more swiftly than what we’re accustomed to from old versions of “Percusión Flamenca” by Paco de Lucía and “Andares Gaditanos” by Manolo Sanlúcar and more recently, Juan Manuel Cañizares “Se Alza la Luna”. On this occasion the touch is almost frenetic, applied to a rhythmic base that marks the accents. The shift into bulerías is another absolute novelty in zapateado, and what’s to be made of the cante, although everything soon returns to square one.
The second bulería is titled “Rocamador” in memory of the monastery where Vicente says to have secluded himself to compose this record. Once again with a beginning that doesn’t directly go into bulería, suggestive piano notes sound which are so few they mostly serve to create an atmosphere that immediately gives way to the bandoneón. Vicente’s music is restless here as he freely explores the upper regions of the guitar neck. Lively and entertaining, along with the sound of palmas and the very appropriate as well as discreet double-bass which shows no desire to upstage and provides depth and weight, this bulería emerges from the inside of the guitar with natural freshness and familiar aromas, none the less attractive for being familiar, and between arpeggios and knocks arrives to an intense finish where once again the keyboard is heard, wisely seasoning everything.
Finally that “Moment in Silence” we’ve all been waiting for, arrives. Vicente is a mystic and here that part of his personality is quite clear. Allowing the notes to breathe, phrasing sparsely, without sacrificing the occasional fleeting flourish of temperament, one senses no need to demonstrate anything to anyone, and he allows the music to speak for itself, ordering, transporting, involving… With no tremolo, (the soleá has none either), nor flashy runs, he manages to create an atmosphere (that of Rocamador perhaps?) of great serenity. In spite of being a very long piece, it’s savored with pleasure. More than a taranta, it seems like a work composed in the key of taranta, although there might be a touch of local customs and manners that needn’t be avoided.
The bonus track, that “Bolero a Marcos”, with string arrangement by Amargós who is always noteworthy, is measured and even subtle, reminding us inevitably that “we must speak to her”… In a few words, a delight to listen to alone or with a partner: with music like this, three’s a crowd.
A record to be discovered. Full of magnificent details, many reflections, perhaps closer to melancholy than any other emotional state, but never anguished. And that melancholy, the self-concentration of Vicente Amigo, is something that can even be seen in his photographs, often with his eyes looking downward, or soul-searching, rarely smiling.
It comes as no surprise to see this phenomenal guitarist, whom we met when he was a boy in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, during that legendary course given by the maestro Manolo Sanlúcar, has arrived to where he is now, where he not only has the responsibility of remaining there, but must also establish new frontiers for the flamenco guitar and leave a mark that is more profound and long-lasting than many other extraordinary technicians, because his role is not only that of technician: it’s to display artistic depth, intellect and communication.
See Cd's information & audio:
Interview with Vicente Amigo