Review Paco De Lucía: The Montreux Years


There’s always a feeling that it takes a live rather than studio recording fully to bring out the “passion, grace and fire” of a remarkable artist like Paco de Lucía. The title I quoted of an album he made with two other maestros of the acoustic guitar, John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola, only skimmed the surface of the emotional depths his playing can inspire. But this wonderful new compendium of live recordings from various Montreux jazz festivals leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat. Why not start by watching the new video to accompany its release as a way of appreciating what to expect?

“Buana Buana King Kong’ is one of three tracks dating from 1984, the earliest of the festival appearances used. It’s followed by the considerably quieter and reflective “Variaciones de Minera”, one of two selections from his appearance at the final, 2012 festival source. The other is the opener, his celebrated “Vámonos”, which kicks off the collection in breathtaking fashion: all but 11 minutes of individual and ensemble virtuosity. A word about the sensitive way that this (vinyl) double album has been put together: breathtaking the chosen performances may be, but it doesn’t leave you breathless and ready to cry out for mercy. Selected from eight appearances over the 1984-2012 range, there’s a nice variation not only of course in the combos accompanying the guitarist, but also in the tempo of the music – always remembering that the emphasis is on those thunderous Iberian and Latin rhythms.

This new release is the eighth of The Montreux Years series, following other giants like John McLaughlin (who contributes the liner notes for his friend and collaborator), Chick Corea, Etta James and Nina Simone. I shall be seeking them out in the hope that they’re half as good as this one. This is acoustic guitar – indeed ensemble – playing at its thrilling and passionate best.

Paco De Lucía: The Montreux Years is out now on BMG.

Follow Sounds and Colours: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mixcloud / Soundcloud / Bandcamp

Subscribe to the Sounds and Colours Newsletter for regular updates, news and competitions bringing the best of Latin American culture direct to your Inbox.