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Flamenco and Jazz converge and it was electrifying

A unique concert combining the plainatie singing and rapid fire dancing of Flamenco with progressive jazz. Electrifying.

I arrived early so I set up a tripod and video camera and stake out a space to lay out my photo equipment. The schedule said music at 6:30/doors at 6 pm so I got there about 5:15 – plenty of time. The band leader told me that they had sold about 100 tickets online, which meant I had plenty of room to set up in the front row center for the best shots and people could sit around me.

I went outside about 5:45 to see how the crowd looked. There were a LOT more than 100 people waiting to buy tickets and scramble for seats. I decided to move to the end of the aisle so the audience would not have to crane their necks around me. It was a good thing I did.

The venue was the Center for Arts and Culture of Ribera, better known as the Auditorio or  the CCAR. The event was the Flamenco Jazz Collective – a seemingly improbable combination of formal Flamenco and progressive jazz. Apparently, a lot of people didn’t think it was that improbable because they filled the center section of the 400+ seat Auditorio and spread out into a few of the side section aisles.

Sofia Ramierez, Eleazar Soto, Solea Gollas, and Gilberto Rios play for Paulina and Mario Ruiz

The combination of Flamenco – the singing as well as the dancing – and progressive jazz does not seem like a obvious match, but the sister-brother Flamenco team of Paulina and Mario Ruíz worked with the progressive jazz band Triálogo to choreograph a set of dances that followed not only the unscripted music of progressive jazz, but captured the improvisation of jazz. This meant bringing not only their moves into the framework of the music but blend the beat of their shoes – a major part of Flamenco – with the cajon and bass in the band.

Flamenco is a traditional Andalusian art form from Spain, but it has evolved over centuries and been influenced by various cultures. The Mexican version, “Flamenco Mexicano,” blends traditional Flamenco with Mexican music and dance, incorporating instruments like the guitarrón and mariachi trumpet, and Mexican dance moves such as the zapateado. Blending Flamenco and jazz has been done by a number of Mexican bands. The duo Rodrigo y Gabriela incorporates elements of Flamenco into its music. Others include The Flamenco Jazz Company, Amandititita, Alex Mercado and others. The renowned Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía collaborated with jazz musicians such as John McLaughlin and Chick Corea on albums that fused the two genres. And the renowned Mexican guitarist Paco Rentería has incorporated Flamenco elements into his fusion jazz compositions.

The fusion on stage at the Auditorio was part improv and part formal dance moves. Solé Gollás’ singing was classical as far as I could tell – the unique sound of Flamenco which blends sadness, loss, and nostalgia in long, emotive, almost painful notes that weave in and out of the cajon’s complex rhythms. The Ruíz siblings , eschewing traditional flamenco costume, expertly choreographed a series of dances that not only followed the unscripted music of progressive jazz but also captured the improvisation of jazz. Their moves were both fluid and explosive, their feet tapping out the beat of the music with incredible precision.

The combination was both ecstatic and mesmerizing – a testament to the skill of both the dancers and the band and to the hard work they have done together for weeks to prepare for the evening. The collective sang and played and danced for almost 2 hours.

The band was led by Eleazar “Chuko” Soto’s wailing sax with a parallel lead by Sofía Ramírez’s piano. Emilia Gálvez moved the music along on the cajon while Gollás kept time with her clapping hands and stomping feet, as did the Ruiz pair when they were on stage Gilberto Rios’ bass wove in an out and sometimes soloed and sometimes accompanied the percussion.

The climax of the evening was a dance jam, when the  entire band got up , continuing only the clapping and foot stomping, and Gálvez and Gollás showed off their moves, with Gálvez dancing in bare feet. left the audience spellbound until they gave it a standing ovation.

Flamenco Jazz Collective gave an electrifying performance that showcased the skill of both the dancers and the band. The hard work they put in together for weeks to prepare for the evening was evident in every note and every step. The Flamenco Jazz Collective has set a new standard for musical collaborations, and I  can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Banner: The Ruiz siblings transform jazz into flamenco.

Patrick O’Heffernan



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (442 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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