Juan Jose Carranza

Playa Gitana

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On his second album for the Montreal-based Oliver Sudden Productions, Juan José Carranza moved slightly away from the flamenco style established on his Flamenco de la Costa to introduce deeper Latin-American influences and a bigger band. His guitar playing still has at its core the fast-paced action of flamenco and the traditional handclaps occupy an important place in the arrangements, but we also find lots of Latin rhythms, especially in the songs featuring flutist François Richard. The other musicians are bassist Paul Etch (who co-produced the album) and percussionist Evans Baptiste. The opening title track places all the elements up front: virtuoso playing, warm grooves, a vocal delivery that recalls something between Santana and traditional mambo bands. The hard-hitting "Mejenga" and the stunning flamenco number "Mi Niño" provide the other highlights. Two tracks don't live up to expectations: "Brisa de Mar" is definitely too mellow for its own good, the flute melody giving it a washed-down adult contemporary world music feel, and the vocals in "Caminando" are irritating at best. But that's just two below-average cuts; it leaves nine great pieces of nuevo flamenco written by a man who approaches the genre with fresh ears.

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