Mateo's Blog

Celebration….and Dengue

17 September, Antigua, Guatemala HAPPY BIRTHDAYS to my daughter, "Amazing" Grace (Sep 13) and to my youngest, dancer Aaron (today Sep 17). Although I am sad to be apart from them at this time, I am heartened to know that I'll be with them both in two weeks. We SHALL celebrate! Additionally, I've been down for a week (and still counting...) with dengue. A tropical sort of influenza: fever, chills, intense headache, general sluggishness. I have given 2 successful solo performances during this time, managed by carefully monitoring rest and medication. I think I'm emerging into the light, albeit gradually. It has never felt so good to sweat, believe me! (Oh, perspire; no, sweat!) Fortunately, my room is large, bright, clean, and cozy. There is a delightful patio as well as rooftop terrace. And, the staff is fabulous, bringing me soups, tea n sympathy---spoiling me more than a bit. I am so grateful. Guatemalan Independence Day was September 15: a rainy, boisterous and joyful blowout. Not the worst time to be tucked up warmly in bed, away from the parades, the kazoos and noise makers, the fireworks. Basta ya!
more

Panajachel, Guatemala

...following a glorious night of inspired cante jondo. El Chele de Cai, accompanied by your's truly----Circus Bar, celebrating their 33rd anniversary. Excellent night of flamenco puro (sin aditivos!). With wine, rum, tequila and various-to-remain-unknown-substances--- Upon arising, only one song dominates my gently throbbing head: Sunday Morning Coming Down. Thank you, Kris Kristofferson. You're, if not an inspiration, a fine consolation.
more

Guate siempre Guate!

I'm baaaaaaaaaaack! Can not stay away too long. Currently, I'm residing in the capital, zone 2, at Casa Canchitas----the place with the great patio. My son, Aaron is with me for another week, before he returns to the US. He spent the summer training with Ballet Nacional de Guatemala (BNG). I rented a car for two weeks and we've been journeying to and fro between Antigua and here. I'll turn in the car when he leaves, catch the shuttle to Antigua, set up shop at Hotel Cortez y Larraz, once again. Creature of habit....(another great patio for my "office.") Both of us were part of an exciting and, yes, even Important, show that took place at the Cooperacion Espanola in Antigua, under the auspices of the Spanish government. It happened Saturday last, the 20th---Lorca pa' mi Sentir. The creation of La Cuca de Grana', who danced, sang, and delivered poetry. It was most impressive! I've been part of shows focused on Federico Garcia Lorca several times; none, however, quite acheived her focus, which, simply stated, would be: her personal relationship, as a gitana (gypsy, roma) and life-long flamenca, with the poetry, music, and vision of this fellow Granadino. She offered a powerfully unique point of view. I came in last minute, cramming for 3 days of rehearsals and setting of music---it was artistic collaboration at its best, for my part. She invited Aaron to set a balletic improv on my, mostly original, farruca. (Nothing in flamenco is truly original---we owe everything to the past masters as well as to our peers.) Aaron was magnificent; I was conscious throughout our duet of what a great moment it was for us, as father and son, two generations, to perform together, in Guatemala, at such an event. Tremendo!
more

Hot Town Summer in the City

My sights are set on Guatemala, where I'm soon to return following nearly 4 months here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's been a fine time, for the most part. Weekly gigs with Rogue Tango are always a highlight. Solo gigs at Rincon 38, Ingredients, Cafe Latte along with weddings and corporate events are lucrative, fun, and provide me great opportunities to work on various technical aspects of my playing. Having some remodelling done on my home, too. It's time to go! Juan Pena (with enye), el Lebrijano, passed recently. My first flamenco recording was Persecucion and I've been a fan of him ever since. Another master fallen; the changing of the guard continues, with or without our participation. On the "recordings" page of this website, we've just mounted an album very personal and very special to me. It is "Invisible Chord: Six Lorca and Siguiriyas." The singer is my dear friend Greg Sagar, the interpretations are uniquely his. He's a wonderfully skilled, evocative voice with considerable strength and richness. My playing is sparse, groove-oriented, with practically no falsetas as I wanted nothing to detract from his natural expression.
more

Descansa en Paz Maestro Habichuela

Just got the news: Juan Carmona Habichuela has passed. A great accompanist of cante flamenco---one of the very very best, in my opinion. Always incredibly soulful, his toque. A true Master. The world of flamenco grieves.
more

Madrid Wrap

April 19, 2016 I'm on the final leg of my return to Minnesota, maybe 2 hours out. Some reflections on my recent weeks in Madrid. SHOWS: Marelu with Paco Cortes' and (top festeros!) Tony Maya and Enrique Pantoja. Her voice is pretty much gone but none of her funky, Extremenyo magic. She danced, too. I left feeling so euphoric. Rancapino Hijo w/ Antonio Higuera. Just a fabulous evening sounding very like his famous father, who was in attendance, too. Great Flamenco Flamenco! Antonio Puerto: not well known, muy cateto, super pure and real cante gitano. Guitarist Rafael Romero was tasty and simpatico. Marcus Miller: bassist of Miles Davis' fame did not disappoint! Excellent. Excellent. His band, his guest artists (Josemi Carmona, Amir, Pepe Bau), his presentation, his INSANE groove. XCLNT! Montse Cortes': very disappointing. Loved her with Canales, loved her with Paco de Lucia. Not tonight. Saw several cuadro flamenco shows, featuring friends, that were of interest and of a high level. Went to a few penyas and jam sessions. Stayed busy, out late every night. Madrid's food and wine scene is exciting. I can't remember either ever being so TOP NOTCH. I made a list of 10 favorite restaurants, new and old. Every meal was a delight and I drank very nice wine always. Antisan vermouth, too. Madrid is clean, beautiful, vibrant, buzzingly lively, safe, multi-ethnic. It has changed so much over the past 30 years and mostly for the good. Still my favorite city on earth.
more

Menu del Dia: Madrid

The menu of the day. Its offered pretty much everywhere in Madrid. Usually costs around 10 euros ($11.50). Today, for my 10 euros, I had: 1st course: a succulent plate of Paella Valenciana. 2nd course: grilled mero (grouper) with a tossed salad (oil and vinegar dressing); Spanish style baguette with a bottle of la Mancha wine, dessert of arroz con leche (rice pudding)----everything simple, healthy, and simply delicious. No fuss, no big deal, no paragraph long descriptions of each morsel....oh, yes, they offered me a complimentary aperitif, as well. We, in the US, like to boast of our foodie culture, James Beard awards, on and on---but, unless, you're really prepared to drop some big bucks, you get basic bar food. I'm sorry. That's the way I see it. Greasy, lowest cost ingredients, served with a sneer, don't forget to add 20%, eat fast so we can turn over the table. I've been living off and on in Madrid since 1980 and the food scene just gets better and better. Quietly.
more

I've been giving this one a lot of thought recently. A month ago, I had dinner with a friend I hadn't seen for a long time. He surprised me by saying he'd taken up classical guitar. He played a few pieces for me and I was, indeed, impressed by his hard work and his progress. The pieces he played were all studies written by someone I don't know of and were very modern sounding....that is to say, dissonant, not particularly melodic, lacking rhythm or swing in any obvious way. He asked me to play a few and I sight-read them. They were somewhat challenging, very playable, really. I found them unsatisfying. Why? Another of Maestro Albert Bellson's memorable quotes was to "always find the music." Find the music. It seems to me that this is critically important: Find the Music! That can be difficult to do. I remember struggling with a Bach cello suite transcription some years ago---I could play all the notes but they just seemed like notes going nowhere. Then I happened to hear Yoyo Ma (on the radio) playing the very same piece. It just opened up like a flower; the melody was so exquisite, so inevitable, so perfect. After that, it was easy to "find the music." I believe one's performance must embrace the listener; we must share our intention, our understanding, our depth of feeling---this is what gives impact to our art. Approaching a modern, dissonant work presents challenges; it also offers big rewards. We need to fearlessly, intrepidly seek out the music: then, only then,can we put it across.
more

SUCHITOTO

i felt good i felt really good a tropical paradise of sweltering beauty suchitoto el salvador la noche gitana green on green on green intense foliage intense midnight most exquisite night of my life de veras la cuca de grana' el chele de cai yeye de salvador artists at their best this evening and i con guitarra rasgueopicadoalzapuatremeloabanicohorquilla somehow deep practice of months n years coalesce into flamenco de categoria puro duro con soniquete sin paja the public on their feet enthusiastic shouting cameras seeking to capture the moment and the moment valid a dream a dream to sustain to empower to endure christmas eve la noche buena hace anyos chervatur kerala india close the circle this is it.
more

Albert Bellson

...was already an old man when I began studying classical guitar with him. It must have been around 1974-75. I'd auditioned for him, and been accepted---on condition of 2 1/2 hours practice daily---as a know-nothing 11 year old. I opted for baseball and basketball instead. Finally, years later, I was ready and we began weekly classes. I was a cocky hot-shot electric guitarist with a nice career as "rockstar" developing. I liked to play fast and flashy. And LOUD. Mr. Bellson's constant mantra, to me, at least, was "there's always time for the music; always time for the music." Huh? What? 40 years later, I think I understand what he was saying. Your speed of execution only has validity when each passage is clearly articulated and soulfully communicated. Along with your "sound" (su sello propio, in Spanish) nothing else matters. Clearly, I'm a late bloomer. (written on a bus, nearing San Salvador on 28 February, 2016)
more