Pedro Cortes / Soulfood

Flamenco Soul

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If Pedro Cortes specialized in tango instead of flamenco, the Spanish guitarist would belong to the post-Astor Piazzolla world of tango instead of the pre-Piazzolla tango of the '20s and '30s. Nuevo flamenco (as opposed to traditional flamenco) is Cortes' focus on Flamenco Soul, which combines flamenco with elements of jazz and funk as well as various forms of world music. Cortes does things that a flamenco purist would never do. A flamenco purist would never lead a band that employs someone on the Indian sitar, and a flamenco purist would not be heavily influenced by jazz (a type of music that was created in New Orleans -- not Spain -- in the late 19th century). But this 2002 release is captivating if you are a nuevo flamenco enthusiast and believe that flamenco needs to forge ahead and keep evolving. Over the years, flamenco has influenced various jazz artists -- Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain went down in history as one of the best jazz albums of all time, and flamenco has been a big influence on Chick Corea and Al DiMeola. In fact, much of Flamenco Soul gives the impression that Cortes is well aware of Corea and DiMeola's contributions to jazz (both inside and outside of Return to Forever). Flamenco Soul also shows a strong awareness of Arabic, Middle Eastern, and North African music; one of the instruments is the oud, a traditional Arabic lute. And that isn't surprising because Arabic music has been influencing Spanish music for centuries; the influence of the Moors has never left Spain. What is surprising -- pleasantly surprising -- is Cortes' use of a sitar player. India's sitar is hardly a traditional flamenco instrument, but it serves Cortes well on this memorable and chance-taking CD.

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