Various Artists

Duende: The Passion & Dazzling Virtuosity of Flamenco

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This three-disc set comes nicely packaged with a 48-page booklet. It provides an interesting introduction to the art, although it is heavily weighted toward the ultra-modern style. Indeed, some of the material isn't considered flamenco at all by its performers. The first CD focuses on individual singers, and includes a great soleá by La Niña de los Pelnes, a blazing bulerías by Terremoto, and tangos by Jose Menese and El Indio Gitano. But beyond that nod to tradition, the emphasis is on New Flamenco. There's a soleá by Camarón and a fandango by Duquende, who follows Camarón's approach. The remaining eight cuts -- by Lole y Manuel, Susi, Diego Carrasco, and others -- are hot off the press, figuratively or literally. The second CD is devoted to guitar. Again, there is a look back at Ramón Montoya and Sabicas, but the focus is on the new sound. Paco de Lucía is amazing, as always, on a bulerías, while Tomatito, Manolo Sanlucar, Pepe Habichuela, Rafael Riqueni, Enrique de Melchor, and six others check in with their own high-power styles. The third disc is the curve ball. Relying on groups and combos, it's not really flamenco at all, but it offers a good sampling of the flamenco-tinged pop, jazz and rhumba styles that are so widely heard today. Ketama, Pata Negra, Ray Heredia and Tino Di Geraldo are joined by another nine novel non-flamenco acts, notably Strunz and Farah, Karakatamba, and Amalgama with its exotic Indian instruments. The descriptive booklet features helpful individual essays on each CD. The first, by Balbino Gutiérrez, suffers from a common bias that denies the Gypsy any real creative role in developing cante jondo. Instead, it accuses the Gypsies of "appropriating" -- stealing -- and conserving an existing Spanish creation. This sort of ignorance or deliberate prejudice is not taken seriously in flamenco circles, and hardly deserves an airing in this format. Other peculiar notions include elevating Enrique Morente to the rank of top cantaor -- though he is indeed an important and creative singer -- and the identification of the fandangos with cante jondo, when they are actually unrelated both historically and musically. Paco Sevilla, a very knowledgeable American authority, does a fine job of discussing the guitar and the individual performers on the second disc. And Ricardo Pachón, a major producer/player in developing and marketing New Flamenco, lovingly and possessively covers the material and personnel on the third disc. In short, this anthology is a good showcase for new flamenco and post-flamenco sounds. It will appeal to anyone looking for good mid-'90s fusion, but it leaves a misleading impression of this great art as something that was born around 1976.

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