It always comes as a shock when a legendary musical figure suddenly passes away. More so when, in this day and age, 66 years is not considered old. Recently the news has been littered with the passing of a number of very significant musicians. Pete Seeger at 94 years passed away a few weeks ago. Jazz guitarist Jim Hall at the age of 83 years also slipped away a few weeks prior to Pete Seeger. Last year Dave Brubeck at 91 years passed away and not too far back in 2009 Les Paul also passed away at the age of 94 years. Unfortunately Paco didn’t have the longevity of his colleagues. Pete Seeger, Dave Brubeck and Les Paul were household names. Jim Hall maybe not so much and outside guitar circles Paco de Lucia probably would elicit the response ?Who. Paco de Lucia in the post Sabicas, post Carlos Montoya flamenco guitar eras was probably the most significant flamenco guitarist of the past thirty years. Paco de Lucia Wikipedia entry . For his innovations in “New Flamenco” Paco was a towering figure in Flamenco circles but outside Spain he is probably better known for his collaborations with John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola in the The Guitar Trio. This was a very successful group on the international touring circuit in the 1980s. It was based largely on the marketing strategy that three incredibly fast guitarists would be a box office hit. On that basis it definitely was a success but from my perspective I didn’t find the music particularly attractive. John McLaughlin’s huge body of work in his East/West collaborations with Indian musicians is probably way more significant than his work with the Guitar Trio. Al Di Meola never figured large in my sonic universe. The whole idea of three guitarists playing super fast never really appealed to me. Even Paco expressed the opinion that he preferred “controlled expression to velocity”. In regards to Paco, his innovations in New Flamenco, including the introduction of the Peruvian Cojon (box drum), far exceeded the musical values of the Guitar Trio. Outside of The Guitar Trio one of the high points of his career was his performance of Joaquin Rodrigo’s guitar concerto Concierto de Aranjuez in 1991. Until asked to perform the piece Paco was not proficient at reading musical notation. “Biographer Pohren, however, at the time of writing his biography in 1992, said that he was still not proficient and had found a bizarre way of learning the piece, locking himself away. His performance with the orchestra under Edmon Colomer was highly acclaimed, a sensitive, atmospheric rendition that composer Rodrigo himself praised, describing it as “pretty, exotic, inspired” … I might add that Paco plays it with a great deal of feeling, far more than is normally heard. And that goes for the orchestra that backs him up.” – wikipedia. After having heard numerous recorded versions by some of the great classical guitarists, and having heard the piece numerous times in live performance I can only underscore the notion that Paco’s version is probably the most exciting. If you want to hear his version click on the following link The Rodrigo Concerto . While you are at it check out any of the hundreds of YOUTUBE entries in the side bar. Also of interest is Michael Meert’s documentary Paco de Lucia – Light and Shade (A Portrait) on YOUTUBE. Click on the following link Light and Shade Documentary . It is also available on DVD.
On February 25, 2014, while vacationing in Mexico Paco de Lucia died suddenly after complaining of chest pain.