Enrique Morente. “El pequeño rejoj”
Text : Marcos Escánez Carrillo
Photos: Rafa Manjavacas
(Click on images to enlarge)
Enrique Morente’s “El Pequeño Reloj” came out the middle of 2003. So we can’t really say this review represents the latest breaking news. It’s more a sort of meditation, carried out in retrospect and taking advantage of the time elapsed as a fundamental element of what it contains.
In his uneasy flirtation with time, Morente combines old traditional flamenco with the latest technology. While he makes us aware of a fundamental era of flamenco, with classic cantes applied to classic guitar-playing, he experiments with new and surprising harmonies which have not yet reached contemporary flamenco.
One of Morente’s many innovations in flamenco was the use of poetry by well-known authors as opposed to popular poetry. He follows in this line using the title of a poem by León Felipe for the title of the record. The first dimension (and perhaps the most important one) is that which he creates making use of the guitar accompaniment of Ramón Montoya with his legendary rondeña, the extraordinary guitarist Manolo de Huelva, one of the pillars of bulerías accompaniment, and Sabicas, one of the most prodigious guitarists in the history of flamenco and an obligatory reference.
Enrique defends the timelessness of flamenco and of art. Consider for a moment the historical record of flamenco guitar at the hands of Ramón Montoya, Manolo de Huelva, Sabicas, Tomatito, Pepe Habichuela and Niño Josele. The latter two use an absolutely modern style and one cut is from a live recording with Tomatito made in 1996 when this guitarist had not yet ventured into a solo career.
After Montoya’s rondeña, with spectacular harmonies, we come to Levantine cante and zambras. The flowing and stately soleá of Manolo de Huelva precedes the futuristic sound of Niño Josele with the no less futuristic cante of the singer from Granada, and the same thing occurs with the alegrías taken from his recording with Sabicas and which is accompanied by Pepe Habichuela.
The alegrías which contains no verse related to time warrants special mention. Traditional cante as opposed to the most avant-garde sort. The soleá and alegrías are without a doubt the flamenco we’ll be listening to twenty years from now. The Policaña is a personal creation which has nothing to do with the preceding cut, the caña of Tío José el Granaíno which, according to Morente, is characterized by its double-length verses as compared to other versions of caña.
The tientos Plaza Vieja is a genuine gift for Morente fans who have always enjoyed his sense of responsibility and flair for improvisation. Caramelo Cubano is a Cuban pianist residing in Madrid. This cut is musically based on guajira although the cante could be categorized as ‘cabales’. The Bulería de Becquer displays a very upbeat tempo and guitar variations echoed on the bass by Alain Pérez. Vendiendo Flores is tango from Granada which reaches the heights with the verse “Casi te lo agradecí”.
Alegato Contra las Armas, based on a musical fragment of “Claire de Lune” is a jewel of a protest song that passes from one classic to another. Beethoven and Morente invite us to reconcile differences via music, which has no country, and which belongs to those who enjoy it and share it with others.
He finishes off telling the bothersome clock “Déjame pasar las horas a ritmo de tango” [‘Let me spend my time to the rhythm of tangos’] and dedicating the song to Lula…a ray of hope for the times ahead…
And so we end right where we began, pointing out the lack of immediacy of this review. I shall also take advantage of this opportunity to express my doubts about the sanity of anyone who has endured me up to now…you must really have been interested! And why not…with sincere thanks to the maestro Morente for this work which no doubt reconfirms his place in flamenco history.