Mateo's Blog


October 18, 2007

Our new favorite hangout:  FIRST COURSE RESTAURANT.  Its on 5607 Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis.  The owner and chef is Travis Metzger.  He is creative and skilled.  He has a good variety of tapas—medium priced and delectable.  Of course, the entrees are great, too, but you know us—we like to hang out, drink wine and munch tapas.

Travis has some very nice wines, too.  It is an intimate little bistro in a quiet and unassuming neighborhood.  As far as I know, no food critics have reviewed the place yet.  THEIR LOSS.  OUR GAIN.  Telephone is (612)825-6900.

We celebrated my friend Alberto’s birthday there and had quite the juerga going til late.  Dancing, singing, guitar and general cachandeo—muy flamenco! ( See the post re:  Flamenco Police.)


October 15, 2007

I just finished a couple of concert performances in Chicago with the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater.  The shows were a tribute to Manuel de Falla and Garcia Lorca.  Sylvia Toran, a fabulous pianist, came in from Madrid to play de Falla’s “Fantasia Baetica” and it was most inspiring and spiritually uplifting to hear.

It was a treat for me to work once again with my friend,  Paco Fonta,  guitarist and singer from Jaen.  He was brilliant (he often is!) and I always learn so much when we play together.  A highlight of the shows was dancer Jose Torres’ premiere performance of his tientos entitled “Reflejos”.  Very powerful and moving.

Bueno.  I am excited about an upcoming concert with Mandragora Tango.  Pianist John Jensen will be joining us—making us a quintet—in performance of several of my favorite pieces of Astor Piazzolla.  We’ll be playing Soledad, Michelangelo 70,  Contrabajissimo and Milonga del Angel among others.  This will be on November 10th at the First Unitarian Church of Minneapolis (3400 Dupont Ave S), starting at 7:30PM.

Musicians love to play Piazzolla.  It is amazing music, incredibly passionate, original, lyrical, challenging.  Definitely challenging.  The works of a genius.

The Flamenco Police: To Protect and Serve

October 3, 2007

The ultimate put-down—“that’s not flamenco!”

No more explanation needed.  That’s it.  It’s just not flamenco.

(And just who are these almighty arbiters of taste and refinement and purity?)

I have seen the enemy…..and they are US!  Every time we, with our paucity of knowledge and poorly disguised guilt—we are guilty of being extranjeros—wittingly or otherwise mouth these seemingly innocuous 3 little words—we are…we are…WHAT ARE WE?

We are co-conspirators in a vicious and, yes, evil design to bring a state of fascism down upon ourselves.  Well,  we’ll be safe because we are on the inside.  We are the ones blowing the whistle.  And woe to the rest of those poor aficionados who dared venture outside the limits of what is truly:  FLAMENCO.

They shall burn in payo-hell.

Attention Guitarists! Stay Back–Stay Alive!

September 29, 2007

Paco y Juan del Gastor siguen el legado de su tio, el desaparecido Diego del Gastor–magnifico artista de la guitarra acompañante.  Como dijo Paco del Gastor en una ocasion,  “la guitarra acompañante siempre va detras del cantaor, no delante, sino detras.”  Ese es el secreto para ser un buen guitarrista que acompañe al cante.

New Flamenco Singer on the Scene

September 28, 2007

Minneapolis, Minnesota has a new “cantaora” who is starting to gain some attention.  Her name is Rachel Milloy.  She is a linguist, singer and dancer.  Her pitch and pronunciation are excellent but it is the “voz raja,” or “cracked voice” quality that is so sought after in flamenco that is most notable about her singing.  Additionally, she could be considered a “Camaronista”—one celebrating the work of the late genius cantaor Camaron de la Isla.

Minneapolis has been blessed in having Maria Elena, “la Cordobesa,” singing and performing here for 3 decades.  She is still wonderful but is a little less active these days.  It is exciting to see a young singer able to help carry the torch of “cante flamenco.”

Rachel is performing this weekend, September 27 through 30, at Intermedia Arts (28th and Lyndale South in Minneapolis) in a concert featuring original dance works of Sachiko Nishiushi and Debra Elias Morse.  I recommend you go and see the show.  Hear Rachel sing and look for her at La Bodega Tapas Bar (Lake and Lyndale) from time to time.

About Mandragora Tango….

September 19, 2007

The “mandragora” is the mandrake root, which grows in Argentina. The group is a quartet (bandoneon/accordian, violin, bass and guitar)that adores the music of Astor Piazzolla (of course!)but we are committed to being a dance band, as well. So we do the entire spectrum of Troilo, Gardel, Plaza—70 or more years of great tangos and milongas. I joined the group in 2004 when we were hired by Theatre De La Jeune Lune for their highly acclaimed production of Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires.

This week we are playing in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday, September 21st at Restaurant Magnus.  On Saturday the 22nd we are at the American Tango Institute in Chicago, Illinois.  Our mini-tour concludes with a private engagement in Milwaukee on Sunday, the 23rd.  More info on the calendar page or take a look at Mandragora’s site. It is loaded with music and info and  fun stuff.

It is such a treat for me to play with musicians of their caliber and sensitivity.  And tango is amazing music–full of pathos and delicious self-pity as well as gorgeous over-the-top excess.  What is there not to love?

Y acerca de tango….

September 11, 2007

Those who sing at the top of their voice will remain apprentices.

Because tango is not sung,

tango is said,

with the pause and the silence alluded by the poets,

slowly, little by little,

for the words to be understood.

Cacho Castaña


September 11, 2007


August 27, 2007

I am very excited about the launch of my new web site. This blogging feature is something new to me but intriguing. I will be sharing my ideas about flamenco and tango—shows I have seen, recordings I love, projects I am involved in and probably some 3 o’clock AM rants, as well.

I do have to mention that I am totally enamored of There is such a wealth of great performance videos on that site. To be able to observe Vicente Amigo up close—it is an unbelievable resource. Videos of Paco de Lucia, of Chicuelo—great dance performances of Israel Galvan, Sara Baras, Yerbabuena, Grilo—the cante of Duquende, Aurora Vargas, Niña Pastori—on and on and on. Fantastic footage of Camaron and Tomatito–there seems to be no end.

Then there are the tango videos of Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel. There are great musical performances and great dancing, as well. Check out the seven videos we have up: Mandragora Tango. Apart from my weird posture (I had trouble seeing the musical score…) I am very proud of those.

I have spent a great deal of time in Spain studying guitar and this tends to make one a technical stickler—always obsessed with improving your picado or alza pua—faster! cleaner! smoother! bigger sound! Well, youtube has so many inspiring performances and such great instructional stuff it is simply invaluable.

Lastly, I remember juergas and festivals I lucked into seeing when I first started learning flamenco in Spain. I owe so much to David Serva and Paul Shalmy for taking me with them to see Anzonini and the Gastors, Fernanda and Bernarda, Paco de Valdepeñas. Through youtube I can revisit some of those precious times that seem to be gone forever. Now that I know a little more and understand a little better I have a deeper appreciation for all that–how overwhelming it often seemed!