by Estela Zatania
“We have lost the most elegant flamenco guitar”. Eduardo Rebollar
A crude beginning to 2012 for flamenco-lovers. A terrible illness, against which he had fought for some time although few people were aware of it, and following a series of relapses and recuperations, has taken Enrique Jiménez Ramírez, “Enrique de Melchor”.
The son of Melchor de Marchena, one of the most revered guitarists of the second half of the twentieth century, also became an undisputed maestro. Minutes ago guitarist Antonio Carrión called to say the following: “This morning we lost one of the basic pillars of flamenco, for me and for all guitarists, both in solo playing and accompaniment…he played for Antonio Mairena, Caracol, Perla de Cádiz, José Menese, Fosforito, Juan Peña “Lebrijano”, Enrique Morente…many more… Not long ago he opened a guitar shop in Madrid which had always been his dream. I’m the continuance of the Melchor school of guitar-playing, and Enrique was my idol. This is a tremendous loss”.
All the people we spoke to underlined Enrique’s vast knowledge of cante and its accompaniment, although his ability as soloist was also admired, and is backed up by several solo recordings he left. Among other awards, he received in 2009 the prestigious “Calle de Alcalá” for lifetime achievement.
If his father, who had accompanied legendary figures such as Manuel Torre, Pastora Pavón and La Pompi was a link to the past, the son drew upon that rich background and continued along the unstoppable path into the future that had just barely begun in his adolescence.
Now Enrique de Melchor is an old master for the new generation. Young guitarist Antonio Higuero from Jerez commented: “I remember one time at the festival of Casabermeja a few years ago when I was playing for Terremoto. Enrique enjoyed hearing me play his father’s variations…Melchor was one of my idols along with Parrilla de Jerez and Manuel Morao”. Another guitarist from Jerez, José Ignacio Franco, had the following to say: “This is a tremendous loss for flamenco guitar, it’s hard to believe. I was lucky enough when I was working with Paco Cepero to have spent some informal time in Madrid with Enrique de Melchor, and as a guitarist, he was outstanding, but when I got to know him as a person, he was really a terrific guy. God bless him and keep him”.
Guitarist Antonio Moya expressed his admiration with these words: “Enrique was a wonderful person and a great friend. I always told him he invented the compact disc, because his playing was as crystal clean as water”.
Being an international figure, news of the loss of Enrique de Melchor triggered reactions from abroad. Specialist Brook Zern, knighted by the king of Spain for his dedication to flamenco, said: “Along with many other aficionados in the United States, I mourn the passing of the great flamenco guitarist Enrique de Melchor. His accompaniment has been an indispensable element in highlighting the art of countless singers, and his solo work has shown us new approaches to the challenge of creating fresh flamenco while retaining the power that makes this great tradition so rich and so moving”.
From Chile, the accomplished guitarist Carlos Ledermann contributed this comment: “It’s very difficult to accept the passing of Enrique de Melchor when we’re still trying to get over the loss of Moraíto and just beginning to heal from that of Enrique Morente. We have lost a tremendous artist of the six strings whose ideas, always original, are on various solo recordings and tens of others where he masterfully accompanies cante with an uncommon level of knowledge, inherited without a doubt from his famous father. He kept a rather low profile, was always technically and formally clean, and a faithful interpreter of the kind of flamenco that was done, and continues to be done by his generation, very clean, always melodic, always full of feeling, always fresh and full of color, unambiguous and respectful of tradition, yet audacious when that’s how he was feeling it. Rest well Enrique, you were one of the greats and that’s how we’ll remember you”.
Veteran journalist Alfonso Eduardo Pérez Orozco who lives in Madrid where Enrique de Melchor spent the better part of his life, describes the guitarist in this way: “A man who was very important for flamenco, above all, because of his vitality, which is the word that best describes him, and the tremendous enjoyment he derived from what he did. On stage, all cares were left behind, he was the absolute opposite of the sort of tragedy associated with flamenco and which is communicated by the singers he so ably accompanied”.
But what better source to evaluate Enrique’s genius than another genius: his own father. On January 29th, 1973, an episode of the series Rito y Geografía del Cante broadcast on Spanish television was devoted to Melchor de Marchena. When asked about his son, who was 22 at the time, Melchor responds:
“My kid, I don’t say he’s the best guitarist in Spain, but his way of playing is full of art, and not only that, but he plays for singing the way I do, better than me really, with greater facility, because guitar comes easy to him. I taught him very little, everything has come from him”.
He is then asked to compare his son’s playing to his own, and the father answers:
“When I hear him play, I don’t feel like playing any more. Because he’s wonderful, and so creative. He does things, and what he plays is his own. It’s cost him a lot of work, making a career of guitar is a long and difficult path. He has it down pat”.
At that point, young Enrique picks up the guitar and plays some soleá, linking his father’s past and present with his own present, and a future already projected by Paco de Lucía with whom he collaborated several years. The father is unable to contain an emotional “ole!”, and this is the best testimony to the great talent who left us this cold January morning in 2012.
More information about Enrique de Melchor