I wrote back in April about a flamenco exhibition at the La Cochera Cultural in Ajijic. La Cochera Cultural is an art and artists hub in Lakeside that, among other things, brings in musicians and dancers. The venue is especially keen on flamenco dancers because the Co-Director, Emelia Galvez, is herself a flamenco dancer, as well as a musician skilled in the percussion of flamenco. And audiences love it.
The April exhibition was a single dancer – Leonor Zertuche – who opened Dance Night with Flamenco and Jazz at La Cochera Cultural, backed by the band Triologo. . Last night there were two – and eventually five, as Galvez and the singer Santiago Maisterra and a (skilled) audience member joined it..
At this point you may be wondering if fusing flamenco and jazz is a Mexican thing. Actually, it has been around for some time. According to Rebeca Mauleón of SFJazz.org, the cross pollination of jazz and flamenco began in 1970 with Spanish virtuoso flamenco guitarist, composer and record producer Paco de Lucía, who fused flamenco and jazz albums and performances. He is also known for fusing flamenco with Afro Cuban and Middle Eastern music.
Once he opened the fusion floodgates, more talent poured in including Miles Davis in his album Sketches of Spain, jazz composer Gil Evans, and Cuban pianists Bebo and Chucho Valdés who brought the keyboard and Cuban rhythms to flamenco. Flamenco has even been fused with hip hop by groups like Ojos de Brujo and Jarabe de Palo, who combine flamenco styles with rock, hip-hop, Brazilian samba and more.
So Sunday night at La Cochera Cultural is based on a long history fusing the classic Spanish guitar, heart-wrenching vocals, flamenco dance with jazz. And they really did it well for the sold-out crowd.
The evening began with a wine tasting and then everyone moved out of the shaded areas as the sun sent behind the trees, and the musicians came on stage: Emilia Gálvez on percussion (and later dance), Fernando Martínez on Spanish Guitar, and singer (and later dancer) Santiago Maisterra. Eleazar “Chuco” Soto stepped in for a couple of songs on the sax.
The popular image of flamenco is very serious dancers in black costumes striking exact poses while their feet move like machine guns and their faces are frozen with the seriousness of the classical art they are engaged in. Not Sunday night. Paulina Ruíz and her brother Mario Ruíz danced with humor as well as precision. The Ruiz’s struck exacting poses and moved their feet and bodies with rapid energy and meticulousness, but they smiled a lot, having fun, reminding us that they were fusing genre’s and enjoying it.
It got even better when Gálvez rose up from her cajón and joined the dance (she was ready with her flamenco shoes on) and then an audience member, Aida Morales, who danced flamenco joined them on stage – obviously unplanned because she was wearing sandals. Didn’t matter, she rocked with the rest of them.
Then the singer Santiago Maisterra joined the dance party. Not quite a precise dancer, he still had a lot of fun we did too watching him. Something about a guy with an infectious grim grin hopping around on stage you have to love.
The night was magic, especially as the sun went down behind the trees and the lights strung over the stage gave everything a sparkle. The dancing was excellent and the music superb. The team of artists Emelia and Chuco put together for the night were the perfect balance of great flamenco, great jazz, and just plain fun.
Next week we go to a recording session in Guadalajara.
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