By Elizabeth Carbe and Jean-Pierre Durand
The Guitar Salon and eliteguitarist.com team up to present the explosive LA debut of a flamenco master
Santa Monica, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/8/19 – Antonio Rey took the stage tonight at the Guitar Salon in Santa Monica with the cool and relaxed confidence of someone performing for a friend in their living room. His first-ever performance in Los Angles was to a packed house of guitarists and flamenco enthusiasts. Taking about four bars of his first piece to tune, Rey moved smoothly into the composition without missing a beat. If he was nervous no one would have ever known. Over the next hour, he proceeded to easily blow away the stunned audience.
He performed every composition with flawless technique, his right hand relaxed and easily moving between picado and arpeggios. His technique was so formidable and offhand that his playing seemed as effortless as breathing. His left hand never hit a fret or missed a note. His little finger on his left hand appeared to have as much strength and dexterity as his first. Though his level of technical mastery mesmerized, it was his sheer musicality that that entranced the audience – a musicality that transcended his technique. We should mention that many leading lights of guitar in Los Angeles were in the audience: renowned guitarists Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah sat right in front of Antonio, and the great players Adam Del Monte and Armand Arnazzi were also in attendance in addition to many others. It was Strunz (himself a dazzling and masterful player) who commented after the show: “it was stunning – he never makes a mistake!” Rey left quite an impression.
Carrying on the flamenco tradition with an eye towards the future, his compositions captured the essence of the form while incorporating other types of harmonic movement. Clearly having absorbed the works of flamenco masters Paco De Lucia, Vicente Amigo, Tomatito, Gerardo Núñez and others, Rey has distinctly cut his own niche. Although Rey did not study classical music per se, he has certainly absorbed a wide harmonic pallette that he utilizes in his compositions. In this regard he is carrying on the tradition of his recent predecessors: he respects the art of flamenco by reflecting their artistry while simultaneously incorporating other styles within the form and establishing an important new voice. And all the while, Rey’s relaxed demeanor and natural smile made the concert even more enjoyable. LA-based Venezuelan percussionist Diego Alvarez joined Rey for the last few songs, giving a lively and complex rhythmic underpinning to the guitarist’s soaring lines.
We had the opportunity to speak with Antonio after his show. (Edited for brevity and translated from Spanish):
JP Durand: There is a community here in Los Angeles that really supports flamenco. How did it feel out there tonight?
Antonio Rey: well, I was out here 10 years ago with a dance troupe, but this is the first time that I’ve been able to play my music. I visited Hollywood – there should be a star there for Paco de Lucia!
JP Durand: I agree. You’re not Paco, you’re not Vicente. In Vicente, you can hear a clear jazz influence in his composition. What is the foundation of your work? We can hear maybe some 20th century classical. Did you study that formally, or are you purely self-taught?
Antonio Rey: I like all music, and listen to all sorts of guitarists. Of course, there’s some Paco, some Vicente . . .
Liza Carbe: You sound like you’ve listened to Debussy . . .
JP Durand: Chopin, the late 19th century composers . . .
Antonio Rey: Not really – I haven’t heard much of them.
JP Durand: so where does the sophistication come from?
Antonio Rey: it just comes out of everything I’ve listened to, through my “filter”.
JP Durand: you also appear to have traveled A LOT all over the world, a lot in Eastern Europe.
Antonio Rey: I love my country, I play less there all the time. In Spain, every day I hear more reggaeton (laughs)! It’s funny that I’d come here to play more flamenco.
JP Durand: Interesting. Like there’s now a huge audience for electric blues guitar in Europe, possibly moreso than in the United States. So this story is not new. You’re bringing a huge new influence here. Vicente [Amigo] seems to play once a year here. I imagine that you could have the same audience here.
Antonio Rey: hopefully, hopefully. I’d like to open a door here.
JP Durand: what interests you about the United States or Los Angeles?
Antonio Rey: wow, so much. There are great festivals here, the flamenco festival in New York. There’s so many jazz festivals. There’s so much.
JP Durand: who would you like to see?
Antonio Rey: [somberly] Paco again. Actually, in July, I will be fortunate to play with Chick Corea in Italy, with [Cameroonian master bassist] Richard Bona. Richard Bona and I have a project called Bona on the Frontier. We have an album coming out shortly, then we’ll be on tour in Spain. We just played in NYC in January. It’s flamenco and jazz. We’ll play in Spain then go to Italy to play with Chick Corea. It’s a dream!
JP Durand: so drums too?
Antonio Rey: no, flamenco cajon and palmas [handclaps]. No drums.
JP Durand: someone from Spain on cajon?
Antonio Rey: yes, he will be coming with us from Spain. His name is Paco Vega.
JP Durand: so Richard learned the flamenco rhythms?
Antonio Rey: yes – he learned fast. It’s a combination of styles.
JP Durand: any last thoughts?
Antonio Rey: I’m very happy to have come. I played nervously – there were VERY GREAT guitarists here tonight!
JP Durand: well, heck, the audience couldn’t tell you were nervous!!!
We also had the opportunity to speak with Tavi Jinuari with eliteguitarist.com, who worked tirelessly over the last few weeks to extend Rey’s visit and bring him to perform in Los Angeles. We spoke a bit regarding how the visit came together: “This is an event sponsored by eliteguitarist.com, and we’ve been having this wonderful partnership with Guitar Salon. So eliteguitarist.com is meant to increase the community of guitar by promoting concerts, live performances, scholarships for students, music instruction, guitar camps”. Guitar Salon International (GSI) is a like-minded ally. They sell guitars and we help teach people to play the guitars. Eliteguitarist.com is a Los Angeles-based company but we have contributors from all over the world. Guitar Salon is affiliated now with Cordoba Guitars. Tim Miklaucic, CEO of Guitar Salon International, realized that there is a need for lower-priced instruments but still high quality instruments. So over the years, Cordoba Music Group has grown to be the largest provider of nylon-string guitars in the world.”
He continued “this is his last show on this swing. He just played in New York. We’d like to bring him back next year with his full group”.
Guitar Salon and eliteguitarist.com really brought an amazing show to Los Angeles. You can find out more about them, Guitar Salon and the amazing Antonio Rey at the following links: