Paco de Lucía

The Montreux Years
Paco de Lucía
Paco de Lucía at Montreux Jazz in 2010.

“He didn’t read music – but I have never met a musician with such an impeccable ear,” says John McLaughlin of the late flamenco phenomenon in the liner notes for this live set, recorded at the famed Swiss jazz festival. A compilation spanning eight shows from 1984 to 2012, it captures de Lucía and his eclectic band of bass, harmonica, piano, vocals, horn, and palmas (intricate hand clapping).

“Vámonos” is uptempo, with a chord vamp similar to “Mediterranean Sundance,” his ’77 masterpiece with Al Di Meola. The intro of “Alta Mar” commences with ballad chords, allowing de Lucía to shred lines of gentle power and grace complemented by Carles Benavent’s echo bass. To hear his famous rasgueado technique (the muted raking of the strings), cue up “La Barossa” and revel in the Spaniard’s fingerpicking virtuosity and daredevil runs.

“Buana Buana King Kong” is a thrilling piece with Gipsy Kings-styled vocals and dazzling flute from Jorge Pardo, next to de Lucía’s meaty nylon-string – this is a standing-ovation-caliber performance. Turning down the heat, “Variaciones de Minera” closes the album with gripping unaccompanied guitar. A fitting finale for a man once considered the greatest guitarist on earth.

This article originally appeared in VG’s May 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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