Mateo's Blog

Weekend Madness!

Antigua, Guatemala, Sunday evening Beirut. Paris. 2nd Democratic debate. Rhonda Rousey..? Hmmmm And rain in Antigua. I'm staying at the Sin Ventura Hotel, near Parque Central (not the same Parque Central as where all the political intrigue happened earlier; that was in the capital, this is peaceful, little Antigua). It's clean (I like that!). It's noisy (doesn't really bother me). Has an unbelievable 3rd floor open terrace where no-one goes. It has become my office, my practice area, my place to entertain. Incredible view of this picturesque place, surrounded by volcanoes. One of them---Fuego, it is called---has been erupting for 4 days now. Not really too problematic but worth keeping an eye on. Lots and lots of guitar. And that's the way I want it. Even performing means less to me these days---I'm obsessed with playing, practicing; playing things at 1/3 or 1/2 tempo; seeking my SOUND. Apart from that, I am doing a few gigs: with Regina, la Cuca de Grana'; with Miguel Angel, my close friend from Barcelona. Just finished the autobiography of Arthur Rubinstein, legendary pianist. Very inspiring. As a result, I've been watching/listening to a lot of piano on youtube. Chopin mostly. Now reading Bob Dylan's book from 2004, entitled "Chronicles." Not surprisingly, he's an excellent writer. Super insightful stuff! I'm soon to return to Minneapolis to close out the year. Even have a birthday to (try to...)ignore. Christmas-time to me is all about the Nut Cracker---this year my son, Aaron, dances the title role. I am ridiculously proud and plan on taking in several of his shows. I've also been doing some study on ISIS. What to say? I respectfully suggest everyone study up on ISIS. They're not soon to go away. Guatemala continues to grow on me. It is, essentially, a happy place.
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My Latest Flamenco Rant!

I do a fair amount of teaching. late last night (3 am), I wrote this rant. I think it will be interesting to share it here: Flamenco is different. It is NOT another style of guitar---like blues, folk, rock or even classical. Flamenco is a WAY OF LIFE. It is the artistic expression of the Spanish Gypsy---the Rom---and, as such, deserves the ultimate of respect from those of us fortunate enough to be within its sphere. Yes, it is a process. Flamenco guitar is a process. You will NOT master it; you will NOT dominate it. The participation is its own reward. Participation brings you into the world and forms of the Great Art of Flamenco. This is known as "El Mundo y las Formas del Gran Arte Flamenco. Please do not solicit or recruit students for me. True seekers of this art will find me on their own. Or not. Please make a point of showing up to every class. EVERY class. It is a sacred commitment. Take private classes as you can manage them---obviously, I'm not doing this for the money because my fees are ridiculously low. I am commited to sharing everything I have learned on my journey of 35 years in flamenco---with those handfull of you who care about it. As for the rest of you: Good luck, God speed, and All the Best. Goodbye. THE JOURNEY IS ITS OWN REWARD. Video-tape, record, utilize your technological devices---at your own risk. I'm not wild about them. SHOW UP. LISTEN CAREFULLY AND DO YOUR BEST. HAVE A LIGHT HEART AND FUN TIME. That's it. I will put you on a journey to acquire all the technical bells and whistles you need to play flamenco guitar. The picado. The arpegios, tremelos, alza puas, rasgueos, horquillas. Practice them madly, like a possessed person. Better yet: BECOME POSSESSED!. What do you have to lose except the boring hum-drum of day-to-day? Break down each falseta and glory in playing it as slowly as you possibly can. And as perfectly. We will do this together. This is NOT A RACE!! Fewer questions. More focused listening. Fewer books. More listening to music. Use your very unique and rare and precious faculties to aid you and stand by you in your pursuit of this elusive and, oh-so-wonderful, divine Art. I have reached a point in my flamenco where the actual playing is everything and the performance is truly secondary. Weird, I know. NO POSERS!! I can not abide posers. Class is 11 am on Sunday, 18 October and I will have it even if I am the only one there (as I was on September 27th). That was a GREAT class, by the way..... If you have other agendas, I may help you---but I will charge you a lot of money. For the true seeker after flamenco---we are brothers and sisters. Rant is finished. mateo
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Guate Otravez!

Guatemala City, zona 2 I'm sitting out on the rooftop patio at Las Canchitas B&B.  Drinking wine, snacking, watching darkness descend (happens early down here so close to the equator...). A beautiful day, a beautiful evening---it is almost always beautiful here. I'll be here for a month. The principal reason for this trip was to see my son, Aaron, dance in Bayadere with  Ballet Nacional Guatemala. That happened last Sunday evening and it was an amazing experience, very emotional, very intense for me.  He spent the entire summer training with them and I think he made remarkable technical progress. Anyway, I'm his proud father and to watch him at the Teatro Nacional was something I'll never forget. It is now completely dark, by the way. At 6:40 pm local time.  Also, I heartily recommend Las Canchitas (they're on airbnb). The owners, Ernie and Rachel Chan, have become close friends.  Aaron stayed here since mid-May.  Its home. About Angeline. Remember Angeline: the restaurant in Antigua, Guatemala I was invested in?  I'm out. Completely. Just walked away. A BAD investment. And, yes!---a learning experience. I'm a guitarist. Always have been, since age 9. I can not be a slave to a restaurant, mine or anyone else's. Please, someone remind me of this, next time I go off on some hare-brained scheme. Antigua is nice. Beautiful. Over 260 restaurants in a small town. Tourism is down because it is rumored that Guatemala is dangerous (it can be...). Lots of ex-pats living there, but, mostly on a budget---the high-priced places (like Angeline) are just too damn expensive. Elections coming up in 2 weeks---they say every one of the candidates, including the sitting President and his entire rogue's gallery, is corrupt. People are fed up. From where I'm sitting, I see a billboard for Zury Rios---it says "No mas extorsiones." Her father was president. And a total crook. Harsh. Brutal. Zury is very good looking, however. More in a few days---I'm told people don't have the patience to read long blog entries. Sooooo sorry.      
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Way-Past-Due Update….

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA:  this is where I find myself these days.  Since mid-March, I've been here playing lots of great gigs and just generally enjoying springtime.  It is beautiful! Before returning here, I was accompanying two very fine Flamenco artists---in Antigua, Guatemala.  I've greatly stepped down my involvement in the restaurant (Angeline: segunda calle poniente #3, Antigua, Guate) which has freed me up for some exciting musical projects.  El Chele de Cadiz and la Cuca de Grana' are really wonderful flamencos.  I enjoyed every moment with them (I anticipate many more!). My son, Aaron, is returning to Guate in two weeks---he's been invited to train with Ballet Nacional de Guatemala for a couple of months.  I hope to get back during that time, also. In Minneapolis, I continue playing solo guitar gigs at Rincon 38 (Wednesdays and Thursdays), accompanying flamenco dance on weekends at la Ceiba, leading Rogue Tango on Sundays at the Loring Pasta Bar, doing the odd date at Caffe Latte and Ingredients. Lately, I've become part of an ensemble with Hindustani singer Pooja Goswami Pavan, who is a world class singer of Sufi songs. Have Guitar.  Will Travel.
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Ninyo Miguel

I just learned of the passing of the (at least, in my estimation) legendary guitarist from Huelva: Ninyo Miguel. I have to spell Ninyo with a "y" because I can not find enye on this laptop. Sorry. He died on May 23rd, 2013 of pneumonia, in Huelva. Anyway, he's a complicated figure and I just love his playing and my heart broke in following his tragic story. I feel that he had an amazingly integrated technique in his toque that tied everything together and allowed him to access such depths of emotion, even spirituality. And his great playing came when he was still very young and immature---imagine this youhg genious continuing his artistic/spiritual assent without the onset of schizophrenia, alcoholism, and drug addiction. Chilling to listen to Paco de Lucia speaking of the great loss of such an incredible flamenco---Paco himself passed 9 months later.
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Cafe Ziryab in Madrid

Today, I'm headed back to Minnesota for a couple of months. I can not leave off my Madrid observations without mentioning: CAFE ZIRYAB! A new place, opened by my friend Anya Volhardt, in Acasias, Paseo de la Esperanza 17. I was there almost everyday, before shows, after shows, watching Flamenco Intimo perform on weekends. Great wines, amazing tapas (I mean it!), super nice people, great flamenco atmosphere. One can often find David Serva here. The legendary American born guitarist who has lived most of his life in Spain. He plays every Saturday afternoon for the Pena Flamenca, that must not be missed. Starts around 4:30 or 5 pm. David has been a mentor to me. I've studied with him, off and on, since 1980. He continues playing his uncompromising, highly original flamenco style (based on his mentor, Diego del Gastor) and his knowledge of the cante and how to accompany it is probably second to none. Goodbye Madrid! I'll be back soon.
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November Madrid Shows Wrap-Up

December 1st, 2014 On the plane, en route to Guatemala, once again. Here are my final observations on the rest of the shows I caught while in Madrid this time: November 19th Augustin Carbonell, "el Bola," released his recently published book on Ramon Montoya---the legendary guitarist from Madrid and uncle of the infamous Carlos---at Fundacion Casa Patas. He gave an interesting lecture which was followed by a solo recital of mostly Don Ramon's music. Bola is a wonderful player. The recital was outstanding. November 20th An evening of jazz at Circulo Bellas Artes. Randy Weston (American pianist) played a mesmerizing, inspired set with Jerry Gonzalez (trumpet) joining him as guest artist. Jorge Pardo, Josemi Carmona, Javier Colina and a percussionist whose name I didn't get, followed up with a set which clearly indicated just how far jazz still has to come in Spain. Ouch! November 21st Back to Fundacion Casa Patas to hear Guadiana accompanied by Diego de Morao. He sang really well and Diego was nothing short of SUPERB! November 23rd I returned to Club Juglar in Lavapies (my barrio!)for another enjoyable evening of cuadro flamenco. November 26th Once again, Josemi Carmona and Javier Colina and unnamed percussionist, this time at Cafe Berlin. I'm kinda over these guys but I continue to learn from them. November 27th A truly successful Jazz-Flamenco encounter! Dani de Moron (pretty amazing young player, forging a new style of flamenco guitar) along with Aaron Diehl, American pianist, and his bassist (didn't get his name). Spanish drummer who couldn't cut it. Mr Diehl is bright, fresh, virtuosic, beautifully educated, inspired: in short, thoroughly enjoyable. I could not contain myself! A high point of my trip. Borgui Jazz in Chueca. November 28th I went to Candelas (in Lavapies, oh the memories!) where Miguel Rubio was unable to sing ("esta muy mal")but Miguel Hijo was fantastic and not at all like his father. Camaron de Patita is a fine guitarist, Luky Losado is a very fine cajon player. Bad sound hurt the performance and dancer Barbara Martin could not execute at the level of the other artists. But, over half the crowd were enthusiastic friends of hers who cheered ecstatically. WTF? November 29th A last return to Fundacion Casa Patas, this time to hear Jesus Mendez accompanied by Miguel Valencia. Mendez is a great singer but Valencia left me feeling a little disappointed. He did a work-man-like job, a little complacent, only lit it up a couple of times. Still, a lot of talent there. Is this what the singer demands? Sixteen shows in a month. I'm satisfied. Even played a couple of house concerts myself.Celebrated my birthday in grand style. Thank you to the many friends who emailed birthday greetings. It meant a lot.
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November 2014, Madrid: Lots of Shows

Here's a quick recap of the flamenco shows I've been seeing this month. Its been FANTASTIC! November 7th---Compania Rocio Molina: Bosque Ardora. Remarkable talent, exciting show. Really creative. 2 trombones and guitar with cante and percussion did the music. Her final piece was a solea' in which she danced the finest escobilla I've ever witnessed, bar none. Teatro Canal. November 8th---Ines Bacan accompanied by Antonio Moya. Pure and essential flamenco. Fabulous! Fundacion Casa Patas November 12th---Paco de Lucia: la Busqueda. A brand new documentary done by his son, Curro Sanchez. Moving and important. Cinema Renoir. November 13th---Josemi Carmona (guitar) with Javier Colina (bass). Jazz flamenco (something that interests me very much!). Lots of high points, maybe a little too rich in bass-solos. Jorge Pardo (flute) sat in on a couple of themes. Fun night! OffatlaLatina. November 14th---Cafe Central: I'm told it is going to close and this is shameful. Spanish jazz crooner Pedro Ruy-Blas was "regular". November 15th---Compania Manuel Linan: Nomada. Unrelentingly jondo that got a little wearying---3 magnificent singers (Miguel Ortega, Maguel Lavi, David Carpio), 2 excellent guitarists (Victor Marquez "El Tomate," Fran Vinuesa)who REALLY got down. Linan (excuse the missing enyes) danced a caracole in bata de cola with brilliant manton work to end the show and bring the house down. Teatro Canal. November 16th---Juglar in Lavapies has a very good cuadro flamenco performance most every Sunday that is highly recommended. My friend, Jeni Benavides, danced very well, indeed!
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Backstage@Amor de Dios

This famous dance studio has been offering intimate and intermittent shows, called "Backstage." On Saturday, November 1st, I saw and heard Pablo Ruben Maldonado (piano), with Eva Duran (cantaora), and Joachim Ruiz (dancer). All three are excellent artists. Their show was good not great. Each of them seems to work with-in a quite limited vocabulary: flamenco, of course, but neither deeply soulful nor hiply modern. They did an Argentine tango-fused farruca that wasn't tangoistic because they don't know the tango vocabulary. Ruiz is a dancer whom I like very much, but couldn't he have studied some tango moves? A dancer of his caliber would shred that stuff! Sin duda! Duran sang "Nostalgias," one of my favorite tangos. She injected flamenquismo to the extent that this gorgeous melody was all but lost. And with loads of dramatics. Sorry. Listen to Rocio Durcal on youtube and hear that Madrilenya interpret Nostalgias. Do your homework! I liked Maldonado's piano playing a lot. I really did. But, again, a little knowledge of tango (maybe of jazz, too!) would have lifted everything considerably. Still and all, I had a great time.
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Madrid Me Mata!! Otravez!

So wonderful to be back in Madrid! I'll be here nearly 5 weeks. I'm not staying at my apartment---it is rented to a lovely person whom I can not uproot!---so I'm renting a room very nearby from a friend of a friend. It is very very nice. Despite the economic "crisis" here, Madrid remains an incredibly vital, bustling,stylish,vibrant city. I love it here! Always have. Its become home to an amazing food and wine scene, too. To drink Ribera del Duero tempranillo alongside tapas of jamon serrano, manchego, sepia ala plancha...on a daily basis...love it! love it! Despite all this, I come here for FLAMENCO. And there is flamenco to see and hear most every night of the week. Sometimes, it is grand and theatrical, sometimes it is intimate and modest. Most often the level is very high. I'll try to write brief reviews of at least some of the shows I am seeing.
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