Diego Amador opens this year's Chicago Flamenco Festival | Bleader

Diego Amador opens this year's Chicago Flamenco Festival


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Diego Amador
  • Diego Amador
On Thursday evening the Chicago Flamenco Festival kicks off with a performance by Diego Amador's trio at Instituto Cervantes. His group, which also includes drummer Israel Varela and bassist Julián Heredia, will play again at the same time and same venue on Friday night. He hails from Sevilla—he's part of a big flamenco family—and he started out playing the guitar. When he first began performing professionally, though, it was on the drums, as a member of Pata Negra, a popular flamenco-rock group and a key part of the nuevo flamenco movement during the 80s. Amador emerged as a solo artist in the mid-90s, by which time he'd moved out from behind the drums, playing mainly piano rather than guitar.

In the past couple of decades, a number of important flamenco pianists have cropped up, most notably Chano Dominguez, a flamenco-jazz seeker who played the festival last year—he has a new album featuring interpretations of the classic Miles Davis album Kind of Blue called Flamenco Sketches, due from Blue Note on March 13. But Amador places the instrument more or less in the traditional role of the guitar, with heavy percussive hands and fiery, high-velocity scale patterns.

On Amador's most recent domestic release, 2008's Río de los Canasteros (World Village), he plays piano, guitar, and bass, and he's not only a primo instrumentalist but an excellent singer, adding raspy lead vocals. I could do without the antiseptic synthesizer washes that mar a few tracks, but otherwise it's a pretty gripping effort. Some pieces are just voice and piano, while other songs employ a full complement of instruments, hand claps (the ubiquitous palmas), and demonstrative backing vocals. Below you can check out the title track. Next Friday and Saturday nights, February 17 and 18, Diego Amador will be joined by his brother, fellow Pata Negra star Raimundo Amador, for duo performances at Instituto Cervantes that debut music from a new album called Black & Gypsy.

Diego Amador, "Río de los Canasteros"

Today's playlist:

Kemialliset Ystävät, Ullakkopalo (Fonal)
Ali Akbar Khan, Rag Darbari Kanada (AMMP)
Various artists, Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Ghanaian Blues 1968-81 (Soundway)
Various artists, My Goodness, Yes!: Soul Treasures From the Silver Fox Label (Sundazed)
Dejan Terzic Underground, Diaspora (Enja)

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