It has been seven long years since France's groundbreaking Gipsy Kings have issued a recording of new material. Savor Flamenco, the group's debut for Knitting Factory, still features the band's original lineup of two groups of brothers -- the Reyes (Nicolas, Canut, Paul, Patchai, and Andre) and the Baliardos (Tonino, Paco, and Diego) -- with guest players filling out the cast. The set was produced by Tonino Baliardo and Nicolas Reyes. Musically, Savor Flamenco looks simultaneously backward and forward. The single "Samba Samba" commences with a breezy bossa nova before spiraling out, wedding both fiery flamenco and driving Brazilian samba. The tune dates to the years before the band ever recorded. While this arrangement has been updated to reflect the group's garnered knowledge of Brazilian folk and pop forms, it's still raw and immediate. Bossa and samba also inform the striking instrumental "Tiempo del Sol," as jazzy flamenco is complemented by organic percussion and Stephane Chausse's brilliant flute improvisation, and the burning opener "Caramelo," which is driven by forro and carnival rhythms. "Me Voy" is modern flamenco, embellished by an acoustic piano and Bernard Paganotti's upright bass playing. For those who love the Kings' traditional meld of pop-nuevo flamenco, tracks such as "Como L'Agua" and "Corazon" should satisfy -- though the latter is influenced by Brazilian MPB as well. Not everything works quite so well, however, as the instrumental "Fairies Melody" and the ballad "Sueño" both feel too polished and slight in comparison to everything else here. Thankfully, a slicker approach isn't always a bad thing. Closer "Habla Contiguo" weds Latin son, flamenco, and acoustic pop for a successful finish -- it also features one of Tonino Baliardo's finest guitar solos on the album. Other than two (slight) missteps, Savor Flamenco marks a welcome return for the progenitors of nuevo flamenco.
Savor Flamenco Review
by Thom Jurek