CARNEGIE HALL PRESENTS

Performance Friday, March 4, 2016 | 8 PM

Vicente Amigo

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Vicente Amigo is a Latin Grammy Award winner and Guitar Player magazine’s Best International Flamenco Guitarist. Steeped in the classic style while constantly innovating, Amigo is at the forefront of a new generation of flamenco performers.

Performers

  • Vicente Amigo, Guitar
    Antonio "Añil" Fernández, Second Guitar
    Francisco "Paquito" González, Cajón
    Ewen Vernal, Bass
    Rafael de Utrera, Vocals

    with Special Guest
    Antonio Molina "El Choro," Dancer

Event Duration

The program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

Bios

  • Vicente Amigo


    "I come from flamenco," says Vicente Amigo. "I have a great respect for flamenco, and it would probably be impossible for me to leave flamenco. It's a way to feel, and it is rooted that deeply in me. But flamenco is just one of music's children. Music and art are bigger than flamenco."

    A transcendent performer, composer, and producer, Amigo burst onto the major stages of flamenco while still a teenager. Since then, he has earned a shelf full of awards, including the 2015 Medalla de Oro al mérito en las Bellas Artes (Spain's equivalent of the National Medal of Arts), as well as a Latin Grammy for Ciudad de Las Ideas (City of Ideas) in 2001.

    Born in Guadalcanal--a small village in Seville, Spain--Vicente Amigo Girol grew up and currently lives in Córdoba, Andalusia. He started studying guitar when he was eight with maestros El Merengue (Rafael Rodríguez Fernández) and El Tomate (Juan Muñoz Expósito). At 15, he became an apprentice of the great Manolo Sanlúcar, in whose group he performed for several years. He later appeared on Sanlúcar's masterpiece Tauromagia (1988), considered to be one of the most important flamenco albums of all time.

    Amigo gained early recognition while accompanying singer El Pele (Manuel Moreno Maya), with whom he recorded "Poeta de Esquinas Blandas" (1988). That same year, he launched his solo career. Amigo soon built an international reputation, performing with Camarón de la Isla--arguably the most important singer in modern flamenco history--and also John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento, and Spanish pop superstar Alejandro Sanz
    .

    He won several flamenco guitar prizes and appeared at the Guitar Legends concerts in Seville, representing flamenco with Paco de Lucía, the authoritative figure in modern flamenco guitar.

    "I play guitar because when I was three years old I saw Paco de Lucía on TV," recalls Amigo. "We later became friends and shared many great times. For all flamencos, Paco is the greatest. He forged paths. He did so much for flamenco guitar that we are all indebted to him."


    Thoughtful and introspective, Amigo pauses before putting his work as a player in a larger context. "I'm a guitarist, but I love music well beyond my instrument," he says. "Music is my life."

    Given his elegant, melodic style, it's no surprise that he has been especially adept at writing for and working with many singers, including the great Enrique Morente and his daughter Estrella, Carmen Linares, and Diego el Cigala within the flamenco tradition, but also with artists such as Sting and Brazilian jazz pianist-vocalist Eliane Elias. He has also contributed his playing, writing, and production ideas to flamenco singers José Mercé and Remedios Amaya.

    While clearly rooted in flamenco, Amigo set out early on to explore the possibilities of fusions in both his recordings and collaborations. In the remarkable Poeta
    (1997), he paid tribute to the poetry of Rafael Alberti with a work for guitar and orchestra that featured Cuban guitarist, composer, and conductor Leo Brouwer and pop star Miguel Bosé. Then, in his Paseo de Gracia (2009), named after a street in Barcelona, he explored pop music, calling on Enrique and Estrella Morente, and Alejandro Sanz. And in the expansive Ciudad de Las Ideas (City of Ideas), Amigo collaborated with Argentine pop rocker Pedro Aznar and Algerian raï star Khaled.

    Tierra,
    his seventh and most recent release, is a fascinating blend of flamenco and Celtic music that features music composed by Amigo with his own arrangements and those of Dire Straits keyboardist Guy Fletcher.

    Though he has performed in sold-out venues in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC, this is Amigo's first major US tour. He is also currently recording a new CD, scheduled to be released later this year.

    More Info

Fernando González on Vicente Amigo

For all the dramatic spectacle and virtuosity in flamenco—the flashes of movement and color by the dancers, the dazzling runs and powerful strumming on the guitar—at the beginning was the word.

While much of flamenco’s history is in dispute—including the origins of the word flamenco—many flamencologistsagree that el cante, the singing, is the quintessential component of flamenco (perhaps, but not necessarily always, accompanied by palmas, or handclapping).

The role of the guitar evolved from modest accompaniment in the early part of the 19th century to solo instrument a century later.

“The guitar in the cante jondo (deep song) must limit itself to keeping the rhythm and follow the singer,” wrote poet Federico García Lorca, a student and champion of flamenco, for his conference “Arquitectura del cante jondo” in 1932. “The guitar is a background for the voice and must be strictly subjected to the will of the singer. But because the personality of the guitarist is often as strong as that of the cantaor, the guitarist must also sing, and thus falsetas (solo guitar phrases) are born, the commentaries of the strings …”

Over time, however, exceptional musicians such as Ramón Montoya (1880–1949), Niño Ricardo (1904–1972), Sabicas (1912–1990), and the indispensable Paco de Lucía (1947–2014) elevated the technical quality and expectations built on that modest role and expanded the vocabulary of the guitar in flamenco—and with it, the sound of the entire genre.

Vicente Amigo is part of that continuum.

With his virtuoso technique, distinct sound, and expansive approach, he is redefining the sound of flamenco in the 21st century. But he has decided to walk a fine line between tending to the tradition and following his artistic curiosity—opening flamenco to the larger world of music.

He is a poet of the guitar. He has a personal, warmer, rounder-than-standard flamenco sound; muscular yet less aggressive; focused and precise. He also favors a melodic approach with a greater use of space and well-placed, impeccably clean runs. If at times he sounds as if he’s trying to turn the guitar—once a servant to the singer—into a vocalist, it’s because he might be. One of his main objectives on his pop-influenced Paseo de Gracia (2009) was “to sing with the guitar,” he acknowledged. “I tried to sing with the guitar the melodies that the guests then sung; I tried to make my guitar my vocal chords.”

As a composer, he is a melodist with a knack for catchy lines. And while he certainly knows his palos (styles within flamenco), he might draw upon popular forms or Celtic music for inspiration, as in his latest recording, Tierra (2013), which includes some of the songs featured on this evening’s concert.

Not surprisingly then, he has not only found common ground with some of the great masters of flamenco, but also with jazz musicians and pop stars. Having grown up with the classic sound of flamenco, he clearly feels free to explore, adding to his sound, as needed, a variety of timbres, including strings, horns, drums, accordions, and keyboards.

None of this has endeared him to purists.

Amigo shrugs them off.

“I do not like to carry the flamenco flag,” he said in a 2012 interview for Easy Reader News in California. “I like to carry the flag of music, of art, of my feelings. It is what brings everyone together, into my world. I don’t expect an audience to know about flamenco. It is a question of expressing yourself. Within the flamenco world, one artist may think another does not play the true flamenco—but for me, it is just a matter of expressing myself. That is what art is: expressing yourself. And I prefer to speak about flamenco as art.”

Besides, even the most dedicated flamenco purist would have to concede Amigo’s unimpeachable credentials, including his apprenticeship and work with the great guitarist and composer Manolo Sanlúcar, his collaborations with transcendent artists such as Camarón de la Isla and Enrique Morente, and his work with distinguished singers such as José Mercé, El Pele, and Diego el Cigala.

“The way I create music is I go out and see what I discover,” he added in the same 2012 interview. “There is a base in flamenco; every music has its base, the basics. But music is all about going out and seeing what you discover.”

As for his interest in other genres and combining them with flamenco, “I’ve always been interested in fusions,” he elaborated recently. “We ourselves are a blend of our father and our mother—how could we be against it? Besides, one of the wonders in music is that it’s open-ended, infinite, and where you least expect it, you may find something that enriches you as a musician and as a person.”


—Fernando González is an independent music writer and critic based in Miami. 

Program Notes
Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with Flamenco Festival, Inc.
This performance is part of Around the Globe.