7/23/05

Gerardo Moreno and 'Inner Flamenco'


In 1995 I followed a girlfriend to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was like moving to a entirely different country, in fact the official title is 'the city different'. It was the land of cowboys, Indians, jet-setters, new age
healers, cosmopolitan tourists, artists and Gypsies. At the time it was the world's third biggest art market and the world's second top travel destination. For me it was like going back to my homeland. My family came over from Northern Spain and settled just north of Taos in the San Luis valley about four-hundred years ago. I had never really been around Spanish people growing up except my immediate family. Growing up in California there were plenty of Mexicanos around, but I never really identified with them. They didn't look like my family or have the same culture.

Once I got to Santa Fe I saw for the first time just how Spanish my family really was. It was really the first time that I felt like I was a part of the culture in the place I lived. Unfortunately the Jazz scene wasn't all that happening. I soon discovered the thriving Flamenco community there. I had the honor to play and record with the great Flamenco guitarist Carlos Lomas (who taught Otmar Liebert and Tomatito). Carlos would hold court every week at El Farol, the oldest bar in Santa Fe (and that means really, really old). It was a lot like a Jazz jam session, traveling flamenco dancers and musicians from Spain and Mexico would drop by and sit in. Also in town there was Maria Benitez' Flamenco troupe of the best young gypsies from southern Spain (they taught me not to try to keep up with gypsies at a party).

I became taken with Flamenco in a major way. I had played in Salsa, Cumbia and Merengue bands for years but Flamenco was different. The groove was incredibly deep, the emotional energy made almost every Jazz group sound like Lawrence Welk in comparison and then the dance put it over the top. When I watched the young Sevillian gypsies dance it made me want to trade all my musical training to be able to do what they did. They were improvising at an amazingly high level and I had never seen anything like it in my life.

I soon hooked up with a Flamenco guitarist there named Gerard Moreno and he started teaching me his music. The rhythmic and harmonic structure was very foreign to me but I threw myself into it with a passion (though I still suck at it). Gerard and I also had similar esoteric interests, which was rare. I did several gigs with his Gipsy Kings style rhumba band before I left Santa Fe for the Bay Area. Then in about 1998, while I was doing a short contract on a cruise ship in the West Indies, I ran into him on the boat. He was vacationing with his family. We spent many balmy nights jamming on the upper decks till the wee hours of the morning.

Gerardo left Santa Fe for D.C. soon after I did to get his doctorate degree in ethno-musicology at the University of Maryland. He goes to Spain every summer to do research on the roots of Flamenco. In 2002 I brought him out to Portland to shoot a TV program about some of the more esoteric aspects of Flamenco. We had a great time filming, playing, talking and writing
techno-Flamenco drum grooves in my studio. Here is a ten minute excerpt from the one hour 'Inner Flamenco' TV program that I produced. The bassist is Alvaro Criado and on palmas is Toshi Onizuki.

If you're interested in ordering a DVD of the entire program contact me at: d.valdez@comcast.net

Gerado Moreno can be reached at:
gerard@gerardmoreno.com

gerardmoreno.com

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

david- i enjoyed your story about santa fe- - hot times in those clubs- why did you leave?

David Valdez said...

I broke up with the girlfriend, then eventually I began missing playing Jazz too much. When I moved back to the Bay Area I couldn't believe how happy I was to see hippies.

Anonymous said...

David that is so great that you were able to experience the truly incredible art of Flamenco. I am from Albuquerque, but I go to Santa Fe frequently to hear the great Flamenco musicians play. Many people don't realize that there is such a deep and thriving Flamenco culture here in New Mexico, and it's one of the only places in the country that keeps the culture and spirit of the music/dance alive and kicking in the city.

As a devoted student of Jazz and Flamenco, it is quite the anomaly to see how related the two are. Improvisation floods the Flamenco way of thinking just as much as the it does the Jazz mind, but as you know they are both accomplishing different things and improvising on different aspects of the music. I too have my roots in Spain, so it is warming to hear of a similar story in someone. Thank you for all that you have generously given to us in your blog; the knowledge dispensed here is invaluable.

-John

David Carlos Valdez said...

Thanks John. Great to hear from you.