Paco de Lucia – The Montreux Years


The latest in a series of releases which delve into the bottomless depths of Claude Nobs’ archives (founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival), finds the spotlight turned on flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. Blessed with an amazing dexterity and an inventiveness that found him incorporating jazz and world music into his technique, Paco ensured that the flamenco guitar would never be played the same again. Culled from three performances, The Montreux Years finds the visionary Paco bewitching the crowd, and now we can experience that magic too.

For those lucky enough to be encountering Paco for the first time, there’s perhaps no better introduction that the track which opens this album, ‘Vámonos’. During his formative years Paco de Lucia absorbed the surroundings of his native Algeciras like a sponge and whenever he picked up a guitar, they came flowing out through his fingers and ‘Vámonos’ arrives sun kissed and fully ripened. Replete with handclaps, harmonica and joyful shouts, it’s a musical celebration and the way Paco manipulates the strings is enough to make any novice throw down their guitar in exasperation, yet there’s still a lot to learn here. Paco was a complete musician; despite a studious nature that gave air of aloofness, he was a humble individual who knew when to step back and let other musicians come to the fore. ‘Vámonos’ (and indeed, this whole album) works precisely because of this light and shade; The Montreux Years isn’t all fretwork dexterity, but when it is, it’s all the more precious. While tracks such as ‘Vámonos’ positively blush on the vine, it’s contrasted with the more nocturnal ‘Solo Quiero Caminar’ which finds Paco painting his sound from a wide palette, not only employing bold strokes, but pastel hues too.

Quite surprisingly, Paco de Lucia never learned to read music and often played by ear and intuition, and this unorthodox approach certainly gave him his unique style. It also gave his playing an organic aspect, a human quality that formally trained practitioners can often lose. Subsequently, ‘La Barrosa’, a hypnotic track that imperceptibly takes on new form, reaches into the very depths of your psyche and reverberates on a primordial level. This education undoubtedly fuelled his inquisitive side and ‘Alta Mar’ fuses a jazz sensibility to African polyrhythms and the result is a musical carnival on which you can almost feel its good vibes radiating around the Casino Montreux. Likewise, the following ‘El Tesorillo’ is played in such a celebratory fashion that sheer joy seems to burst from the record’s grooves. However, the album’s pièce de résistance is closing track ‘Zyryab’, a mesmerising 20-minute track that’s almost progressive rock in its ability to shape shift and take on new form. As usual, de Lucia orchestrates the piece perfectly, often bringing his guitar to the fore, sometimes retreating to allow others to take a solo, but he’s always ever present, and always entertaining.

While it’s certainly true you can’t judge a book by its cover (or an album by its sleeve) the jacket that houses The Montreux Years is fairly indicative of the sound within. It’s bold and brash, but intriguingly interconnected and will keep revealing its delights spin after spin after spin.

Vinyl Track List:

Side A:

  1. Vámonos ***
  2. La Barrosa **

Side B:

  1. Solo Quiero *
  2. Alta Mar *

Side C:

  1. El Tesorillo **
  2. Buana Buana King Kong *

Side D:

  1. Variaciones de Minera ***
  2. Zyryab **

CD Track List:

  1. Vámonos ***
  2. La Barrosa **
  3. Solo Quiero *
  4. Alta Mar *
  5. El Tesorillo **
  6. Buana Buana King Kong *
  7. Variaciones de Minera ***
  8. Zyryab **

* Live At Casino Montreux 1984

** Live At Casino Barrière 2006

*** Live At Miles Davis Hall 2012