Chano & Josele

Chano Domínguez / Niño Josele

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Chano & Josele Review

by Mariano Prunes

Although they belong to different generations, pianist Chano Domínguez and guitarist Niño Josele (born 1960 and 1974, respectively) are both considered leading forces in contemporary flamenco music and share a common interest in the intersection of flamenco and jazz. For Domínguez, this developed almost from the onset of his career while Josele, who comes from a family of distinguished flamenco musicians and is a Paco de Lucía protégé, turned to jazz when he was in his thirties, much to the dismay of the more conservative sectors of the flamenco scene. The duo first performed together in New York when they were asked to improvise on a Miles Davis piece, and soon began to nurture the idea of a collaboration. The project catalyst turned out to be film director Fernando Trueba, who is famously passionate about music and responsible for several superb documentaries and records, often about the meeting of different musical cultures: he was the factotum for the acclaimed summit between Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés and flamenco singer Diego El Cigala, for instance. Trueba's input consisted in getting Domínguez and Josele into a studio and, crucially, suggesting a possible repertoire. Typically, his choices are as exquisite as unexpected and include no obvious standards, and no proper flamenco or jazz, even. Rather, more than a third of the album is devoted to Brazilian composers Jobim, Pixinguinha, and Chiquinha Gonzaga, with Henry Mancini, Michel Legrand, and the Beatles also getting a spot; incidentally, the delicate version of "Because" is just too marvelous for words. In yet another surprising turn, each artist also plays the other in the two solo pieces of the album, with Josele transcribing Domínguez' "Alma de Mujer" for guitar, and Domínguez adapting Josele's "¿Es Esto una Bulería?" for the piano. From the classical guitar tremolo that opens the record until the last chord is over, the results are pure magic. What is perhaps most amazing is how Josele and Domínguez innately manage to turn all these different sources and influences into a cohesive whole. This is the kind of record that makes a mockery of the notion of genres and classifications, as both musicians engage in a conversation around some beautiful pieces of music, taking them wherever their sensibilities may lead them at any given moment, nonchalantly dropping hints of Spanish classical music, Latin American popular music, flamenco, or jazz, often within the same composition. The inclusion of Mancini's "Two for the Road" may be a nod to Beyond the Missouri Sky by Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny, an album that shares a similar vibe with Domínguez and Josele's. It is not quite as hushed, and is profoundly romantic (the one overriding characteristic that all these songs may have in common), pointing out the obvious fact that Missouri and Andalucía are, after all, two very different places, but they share the sound of two kindred musical souls quietly enjoying each other's company; a true wonder that, fortunately, can happen anywhere in the world.

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