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Flamenco and jazz.   A  fun night with history

A magic night fusing flamenco, jazz and fun

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.

Organizer, Co-Director, musician and dancer Emelia Galvez on her cajon.

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.

Patrick O’Heffernan

Next week we go to a recording session in Guadalajara.

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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (363 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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