Thursday, February 27, 2014


Yesterday, February 26th, 2014 Paco de Lucia died.

"World-renowned Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucia has died aged 66 in Mexico, reportedly of a heart attack while playing with his children on a beach. The death of one of the most celebrated flamenco guitarists was announced by the mayor's office in Algeciras, southern Spain, where he was born. He is said to have died in the Mexican resort of Cancun." bbc
I would say that I am lucky to have seen Paco two times before he died. He died on the beach playing with his kids. Who wouldn't want to go that way? He was in a class of his own, no one comes close. 
A part of Spain will go with him to the grave.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mannouche Swing Quintet

It turns out that the band we saw playing in the park was actually a Montreal staple who have a couple of albums out. We wound up seeing them in a club called Upstairs Jazz. They are called Mannouche Swing Quinte.

I shot this video of one of the tunes they played. This place serves food and wine and the people don't talk while the band is playing. What a concept!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Maestro! (continued)


The canta or singers were two guys who seemed to be “on” this night. Especially the older one. After two songs Paco had someone bring him a towel and he explained, “I buy new pants today. Very slippery. Cannot play.” Then he put the towel on his leg so the guitar wouldn't slip anymore. The entire hall erupted in laughter!

They had some tuning issues and after a few songs or about an hour and he told the audience they were all out of tune and needed to go back stage and re-tune, “We come back.” he said. Then the house lights came up and we had about a thirty minute intermission. Which no one could tell if it was scheduled or not. It didn't matter.

Everybody pretty much came back and sat down on their own and they turned the lights back down and the band came back onstage. They started out, all eight, together on a very recognizable tune but I don't know the name of it right now.
Toward the end of that song the dancer finally got up and started doing his routine on a slightly raised platform in front of the musicians. He actually really got the crowd into it and the band seemed to kick into high gear feeding off the crowd.

So the last forty-five minutes or so were highly charged and you could feel the duende flowing through the room. It was nice to see the way that the flamenco unit actually functions. When the singers come in the guitars lay back and if the singer really gets a good line off Paco throws in a rapid Spanish strum to sort of put an exclamation point on the end of the sentence. Then they pull it back down like a pulse and the singer steels himself to get ready for the next line of canta. Then he inhales and fires out the line loudly, forcefully and they thrust their arms down by their sides when the sing. Very theatrical.

I never like to listen to canta very much, but it takes on a different aspect when you can see it live. It all makes a lot more sense when you realize that it is sort of like a group of performers working together during the performance.

Sometimes the bass will throw a little run in after a line of canta too. Then they come back to the main melody and it's kind of pulsating and a little terrifying at the same time. When it's time for the dancer to get up he expresses himself a lot in the same way as the singers. He waits for the band to come down and get into the pulse then he starts tapping with his heels and getting a beat going. He builds it up and then he explodes with a strong flourish and he might do a couple of spins to cap it off, along with some real strong stomps and all the singers shout “ole, ole!” and the band comes back in on the main melody and they go through a progression then they lower it back down again and the dancer starts again tapping.

The audience really enjoyed this immensely and the band was smiling all around. Paco would typically give each musician a little room to solo while they kept the pulse going the whole time with the singers clapping a tempo and the guitars half muting the melody.

Everybody got a chance to showcase their skills, but it was the harmonica player who really got the crowd going the best. Every time, they would start out real low and gradually build up until everybody was going full bore and the room would pulsate with the ebb and flow of the music.

When the soloist was into his long runs the sound man was panning the mix so it was going from left to right and back again giving a cool stereo effect. And I think the harmonica player may have been playing with two harmonicas sometimes.

The people in the audience were there to see Paco. They were all pilgrims like me and you can bet that 80% of the audience were guitarists so everybody was really focused on the music and did not talk during the show, or had the decency to whisper.

Of course Paco played solos during all the songs too. He seems to have mellowed some from his recordings and everybody realized that we weren’t watching a forty year old Paco, but the old Maestro is still able to tap the duende and played some amazing runs that brought cheers from the crowd. He seemed content though to let the band do the heavy lifting and probably at this point he feels that he doesn’t have anything to prove anyway. It was a great performance and I feel privileged to have been there.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A View from the mountain

A view of Montreal from the top of Mount Royal. It was a tough climb but we made it!

The Chalet at the top of the mountain.

Observation deck on Mount Royal.

Stairs leading up the mountain.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Maestro! Paco de Lucia was incredible. Band members came out one at a time beginning with the percussion. All told he had an electric bass, a keyboard/harmonica player, a rhythm guitar two singers and a dancer. The keyboardist colored the songs with some synth/string sounds which I wasn't sure I would like but it did not detract from the music. He also played lots of harmonies on the harmonica with Paco in place of the flute that is heard on most of Paco's recordings. (more to follow)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Parc La Fontaine

The coolest part of Montreal is Parc la Fontaine  which is just a short walk up the street from the b&b we are staying at. The park is a fairly large park and has two lakes. The people here love the park and they come out in droves to sit by the lake and sunbathe or play music or Bar-b-que or throw frisbees and ride bicycles. Bicycling is biggg here! Everyone rides a bike it seems like. You can even rent bikes at this thing called Bixi.

In the park young and old intermingle all along the walking paths and bike paths and footpaths. It is very bohemian and free, but not really quite hippy although there is a little bit of that. Mostly the preponderance of people seem to be mostly middle class folks just getting out and enjoying nature.

Lots of musicians gather and play all around the park. Also troops of actors hold improtue shows in the middle of the park. The smell of marijuana is ever present. Though it isn't legal according to the locals the police don't care if people smoke it. They only go after the dealers. It's totally out in the open. Open containers of alcohol isn't an issue either as practically everyone is having some kind of beverage or another. It's really refreshing to see. Overall though it is a very relaxed, very laid back. Just like everyone said it would be. But it isn't like you are at a Grateful Dead show or anything like that, it's legitimate and uncontrived.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit

The Musee des beaux-arts was having a temporary exhibit of Jean Paul Gaultier.
Gaultier designed the outfits for Madonna on her Blonde Ambition tour with the huge conical shaped bra. There were lots of original sketches and Polaroids of Madonna and her band trying out the costumes.

The cool thing about the Montreal museum is that they let you take pictures in the exhibit as long as you turn off the flash. So I was able to get some cool photos. The coolest stuff were the sketches from the Fifth Element pre-production. You can tell that they know Bruce Willis has the Corbin Dallas role from the sketch of his costume. But the Lelou model did not look like Mila Jojovich.