Paco de Lucía Remembered

When Paco de Lucía died I knew that I was not going to write something here simply because that is what one does. I decided to wait until I could put something together that would communicate some of the admiration that I have always felt for this master guitarist.

I was still a child when I first heard Paco. I had heard Sabicas, Niño Ricardo, Ramón Montoya, Serranito and Paco Peña when I was sent  to school in Britain. Of course I thought that all of these guitarists were absolutely wonderful and I still do but Paco de Lucía was very different.

Many guitarists around me would talk about his phenomenal technique and especially the speed of his picado and certainly I noticed these things too but when I listened to him I was hearing something quite special. It was as if he was using both his extraordinary technical skill and his relentless torrent of ideas to give life the profound emotions within him.

Even when playing some of the happy flamenco forms that we refer to as cante chico these Paco expressed with a special edge of energy and powerful emotion.

There is no point in me listing a few of his pieces because to me each and every one of his pieces was a spectacular outstanding composition. To me he was a creative genius in the real sense.

Yet with all this skill and all these ideas I found him to be profoundly and genuinely flamenco. People talk about his work with jazz guitarists or his work with orchestras etc. but for me this has never detracted from his flamenco personality. I am not sure if he ever played jazz or jazz fusion as such; perhaps he just had friends who were jazz guitarists and he enjoyed playing with them.

My personal preferences are for his early works. People have often thought quite wrongly that the fact that I do not play any of his pieces must mean that I do not like his music. Nothing could be further from the truth; I listen to his playing all the time. I am much inspired by Paco de Lucía but then I play the style and pieces that are natural to me.

Paco was quite well established when he came to perform at the Teatro Circo in Cartagena, Murcia. The sense of anticipation in the hall was electrifying people knew something big was going to happen and as the start time approached there were short bursts of applause from the pure excitement. If I remember correctly he was accompanied on that occasion by José María Bandera and Juan Manuel Cañizares. Paco was much more relaxed that when I had seen him outside of Spain, even to the extent of making jokes. As I remember he introduced the two guitarists as very good players, good looking and after a pause they have money. So we all laughed because that meant they had it all.

As for the concert itself well he did what he always did: people on their feet crying out for more or as we say in Spanish ” Se armo la marimorena”. He played superlatively, better in my opinion than he had out of Spain, because it felt like he was more free, more at home.

In 1992 I went to the Expo 92 in Sevilla and of course planned it so that I could see the concert by Paco. What an immense joy. Paco, young, handsome, full of energy and smiling, happy enjoying. The atmosphere at Expo 92 was almost impossible to describe. This massive international exposition of countries from all over the world and not in Madrid or Barcelona which of course would have been great but in Sevilla one of the cradles of Flamenco, the capital of Andalucía. As we walked around the exhibitions and met all the people and watched all the performances we were buzzing with a  sense of positive anticipation and celebration of the world and of being Spanish and Andaluz as we walked around. We were ready for a big emotional experience and Paco delivered.

This is how I remember Paco de Lucía. In his prime, full of energy and giving to flamenco a precious gift that will last forever.