Gerardo Nuñez
Biography, discography, Real Audio and readers' comments


The artform of the common people,
in royal surroundings

Silvia Calado. Madrid, august 2004
Photos: Daniel Muñoz

Noches Flamencas en Sabatini Season. Chano Lobato / Antonio Pitingo (Wednesday 4th August). Enrique de Melchor / José Menese (Thursday 5th August). La Tati (Friday 6th August). Pepe Habichuela and Josemi Carmona / Salomé Pavón (Saturday 7th August). Niño Josele / Duquende (Sunday 8th August). Gerardo Núñez Trío / Capullo de Jerez (Thursday 12th August). El Güito (Friday 13th August). Jardines de Sabatini, Madrid (Spain), from 4th to 13th August 2004. 10pm.

The stage design alone deserved a round of applause on the opening night. The towering side wall of Madrid's Royal Palace used as a backdrop was a sight to behold. And it wasn't the only thing. This season of 'flamenco nights' in the palace gardens was held among the pine trees and lawns, with only the starry skies (as starry as you’ll get in a brightly-lit city) as a roof. As luck would have it there was some respite from the midsummer heat, and a cool breeze blew down from the nearby mountain range to soothe the audience. As an extra incentive, apart from the cinnamon wafers served up by a 'chulapo' in traditional dress, the audience enjoyed table service as they lapped up the activity on stage. Except for those seated in the stalls to the rear, who had to get their own drinks. In total, there was room for around seven hundred people, and on a lot of nights - good news considering this was peak holiday season - they were all occupied. The only remaining ingredient: flamenco.

Chano Lobato

The program aimed, on the one hand, to strike a balance between vocalists, dancers and guitarists, making a special effort not to neglect these last musicians. And, on the other hand, to combine established names and promising newcomers. This duality was already evident on the first evening, when the double bill featured both the whippersnapper Antonio Pitingo and the hardcore old-timer Chano Lobato, both backed on guitar by Paco Cortés. The former seized at the chance to perform a varied repertoire of classic flamenco pieces, drawing on influences such as Antonio Chacón and Manolo Caracol. And Chano Lobato, who now has nothing to prove, focused on the styles of cante that have become his trademarks - tanguillos, alegrías, tangos, soleá - and offering those entertaining yarns of his, telling tales of Ignacio Espeleta and Pericón de Cadiz. And the fact is, as always, he's just as pleasant a cantaor as he is a storyteller. He oozes experience. Arte, with a capital A.

As if to prove that flamenco guitar, according to program director Juan Verdú “is at the most important moment in its history” there was occasion for flamenco guitarists to take the limelight. On the second evening, to be exact, the proceedings were kicked off by Enrique de Melchor with a guitar recital, accompanied by a somewhat shaky rhythm section and an out-of-place flute.

With his characteristic blend of a delicate hand and a classical style, he ran through a repertoire featuring tangos, fandangos, a habanera, bulerías and rumbas, combining his experience on flamenco guitar with the musicality of his 'band'.

The son of Melchor de Marchena later switched roles, providing accompaniment to the vocals of José Menese. The cantaor from Puebla de Cazalla gave a dignified recital, his powerful voice booming from deep within. He stood out from the crowd with his choice of repertoire, full of seldom heard cantes: trilla, farruca, nana, caracoles...

José Menese y Enrique de Melchor

This format - ‘guitar recital + cante recital’ was repeated on three other occasions: on Saturday in Pepe Habichuela and Josemi Carmona's concert, preceded by a performance by newcomer Salomé Pavón; on Sunday with a performance by guitarist Niño Josele from Almería and cantaor Duquende from Catalonia; and on Thursday with Gerardo Núñez and Capullo de Jerez.

The guitar duo comprising Pepe Habichuela and Josemi Carmona, father and son, was one of the high points of this season. With a guitar linked up to an amplifier, electric bass, two percussionists, a keyboard and a vocalist, the regular member of Ketama offered a delicious performance, which unpretentiously veered toward fusion and universal appeal... whilst never straying from flamenco territory. And it paid off: he seems just as much at home giving a fresh group approach to palos like bulerías and rumbas, as he does giving a solo performance of a soleá, laying his instrument bare. The album is overdue.

The legendary Pepe Habichuela takes over, giving a solo performance on the same guitar his son used. His striking intuition on guitar was plain to see from the very first note; the audience was intoxicated by his subtlety, his know-how. He played alegrías and bulerías with two percussionists, and played the bulería por soleá taken from the magnificent disc ‘Yerbagüena’, giving it a new twist. He struck up a two guitar bulería alongside Josemi and cantaor Pepe Luis Carmona. And then it was back to the band formation, comprising ‘Habichuelas’ old and young. And, to round off, the theme from the album recorded with Indian musicians The Bollywood Strings, but this time played without them. Tentatively, very tentatively, the audience called for an encore (this is an audience that has trouble getting whipped into a frenzy), and the encore came, with a few dance steps thrown into the bargain courtesy of one of the ladies of the clan. Let's not forget that before this incredible concert came a chance for cantaora Salomé Pavón to perform her repertoire of light-hearted styles, with the backing singers providing plenty of over-the-top 'coros'. To emphatically state that she's La Niña de los Peines's niece, Manolo Caracol's grandson and Arturo Pavón's daughter (her father, incidentally, is very ill) perhaps worked more against her than it did in her favor. Ones caste doesn't make one an artist.


Pepe Habichuela with Jose María Carmona and Salome Pavón


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