Miguel Espinoza realized to play guitar at age 4, within the early ’60s, and spent a superb a part of his childhood learning the flamenco model. After highschool, he moved to Madrid to apprentice with flamenco masters. Now he is turned the style on its head, incorporating different world sounds and jazz along with his band Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Fusion.

Espinoza first encountered jazz in his late twenties, when he walked right into a New York Metropolis bar along with his guitar and joined a band for a set. After returning house to Denver, he turned shut associates with jazz saxophonist Laura Newman, with whom he would run scales. Newman gave him the 1978 album Roots within the Sky, by the band Oregon, one of many first teams to fuse jazz with sounds from all over the world.

“That was it, man,” Espinoza says. “I used to be simply smitten with that album, and my entire path with flamenco modified.”

After that have, he knew he couldn’t return to conventional flamenco.

“It simply did not do it for me — it did not have the colours,” he says. However after recording with artists like Béla Fleck and increasing his sonic palette, he now considers himself “a world-fusion guitarist with robust influences in flamenco.”

Within the mid-’90s, impressed by the sounds of Oregon, Espinoza and tabla participant Ty Burhoe shaped the band Curandero, which suggests “healer” in Spanish. The group’s 1996 album, Arás, consists of Fleck and bassist Kai Eckhardt, who’s labored with jazz-fusion impresario John McLaughlin. On Espinoza’s new album with Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Fusion, Veneta, he pays homage to Oregon once more.

Flamenco Fusion has been round for roughly two years. Espinoza shaped the mission with saxophonist Lynn Baker, cellist Dianne Betkowski, bassist Randy Hoepker, and tabla, cajón and djembe participant Andy Skellenger. The brand new album additionally consists of percussionist Mario Moreno, who lately joined the ensemble.

Though the root of the group is flamenco, Skellenger works in Indian rhythms and Moreno provides salsa aptitude. Betkowski, who has toured and recorded with symphonies from all over the world, lends a classical sensibility. Baker, former director of the jazz research and business music program on the College of Denver’s Lamont College of Music, is a talented jazz participant, and Hoepker, musical director for the Colorado Brass ensemble and director of instrumental music at Vista PEAK Preparatory Excessive College in Aurora, brings tasteful and lyrical bass strains.

“I’m doing my very own factor as a result of flamenco’s turn out to be very stylish and there are a number of new issues which can be cool,” Espinoza explains. “I am staying away from the fashionable factor and simply strolling my very own path now, however respecting the nice line between custom and innovation.”

Betkowski says she’s by no means been happier enjoying cello than she has been with Flamenco Fusion.

“I loved studying the flamenco custom and in addition serving to to be a part of that innovation, as a result of cello shouldn’t be a standard flamenco instrument to start with,” Betkowski factors out. “I like to play the rhythmic parts of our music. However I additionally know that I can stability it out with lyrical passages that most likely would not be there with out the cello and with out the classical background.”

The opening lower on Veneta is a beautiful rendering of Erik Satie’s “Gnossienne,” which makes use of bulería, a flamenco rhythm, whereas additionally having a Brubeck-like jazz really feel. The association of the piece, which dates again a number of years, was one of many causes Espinoza wished to collaborate with Baker.

They recorded the tune, “however it did not come out like we wished,” Espinoza remembers. “Then Dianne got here into the group, and she or he did some artfully dissonant harmonies that aren’t current within the Satie piece, however it actually labored nicely.”

Whereas many of the six songs on Veneta have been recorded earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit, the group lately recorded “Unhappy.”

“I believe it has a little bit of COVID disappointment,” Espinoza says. “It is actually lovely, however it’s additionally very melancholic. Dianne composed the intro, and it’s very baroque-ish.”

Espinoza says the tune ties into the group’s objective — “to make use of our music to remind folks of their humanity.”

Within the reside setting, the group’s personal humanity is on full show because the musicians wind their manner by varied genres.

“Now we have the framework of composition, however we’re all the time taking turns improvising,” Espinoza notes. “Typically it simply goes into surprising locations. Each time we play a bit, it is by no means the identical, so it is all the time contemporary.

“We are able to really feel one another so nicely on simply one other degree, which is form of this factor that occurs,” he provides. “It is referred to as ‘duende.’ The duende is available in, and it is like we’re telepathic with one another.”

Hear extra from Miguel Espinoza at miguelespinoza.com.

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