Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Guitarist Paco Lucena

Flamenco Guitarist Paco Lucena and his link to Diego del Gastor; also Guitarist Paco Fandango – 1933 Dictionary entries

Whilst hanging around an antiquarian book fair one afternoon, I espied a book I’d heard about but never seen: the Diccionario de Guitarristas by Domingo Prat, published in Buenos Aires.  I couldn’t divine the copyright date, but suspect it was 1933 or a bit later.  It was a signed and numbered limited edition, 1365 out of a total of 1605 copies, in a large format.

(I was going to buy it, but I only had twenty dollars, which left me six hundred and thirty dollars short.)

This book focuses on classical players, of course, with biographical details on hundreds and hundreds of them — there were several pages on the still-young Segovia (including a quote that he was glad he’d never met Tarrega, because that might have impeded his developing his own approach to technique.)

I didn’t have much time, or a copying machine, but I found one especially interesting entry, and mumbled it into the crummy little tape recorder that I carry for such emergencies.

It was about Paco Lucena, who is considered the primary influence on the Morón school of flamenco guitar playing, including that of Pepe Naranjo and later the playing of Diego del Gastor, who learned some of Lucena’s approach, style and material from Naranjo.

Here’s a translation of this entry (the original Spanish version appears below.)

PACO LUCENA – Francisco Díaz Hernández – Celebrated guitarist among the greats of the Andalusian genre (common/vulgar term: flamenco).  Born in Lucena, Cordoba Province, Spain, on June 1, 1859, son of José Bernardino and Josefa Jauna, both from the same town.  This is on his Baptismal Certificate, folio 235, book 108, in the Parochial Archive of San Mateo church.

Francisco Díaz — “Paco Lucena”, to use the name he was known by (along with the additional term “celebrated guitarist”) — was a distinguished figure, around whom there was always a striking nimbus of respect and admiration, totally distinct from what one would expect to find among artists of this genre.  His handsome countenance, his distinguished comportment, his art that seemed always renewed with the freshness of the improvised variations which marked his music — attributes which so moved the Russian composer Glinka upon hearing the guitar sorcery of “El Murciano” in the Albaicin of Granada long ago — all of these qualities mark Paco Lucena as a striking exponent of his “raza” [race, group; usually implying Gypsy], manifested in his appearance and in his music.

I recall my late father, exalting the memory of his unique genre, saying:  “Just to be at one of his sessions was to witness an entire exposition of gorgeously colored paintings, animated and suffused with the Andalusian sun itself.  The sublime quality of his playing  bespoke a sensibility that bordered on the supernatural.  He produced ravishing effects, with all the richness of Moorish stonework carvings, when he bent his breast over the guitar, perhaps unwittingly impelled to do this by the same painful condition that also prematurely took Chopin from us.

A great pity that these geniuses, these great creators of the art, never had the satisfaction of hearing themselves on a recording.  Their true worth, then, we can never know except through the records of the era.

In the same city of Lucena, at age 39, the life of this sublime guitarist ended, on May 24, 1898.  (This data copied from his death certificate.)

End of D. Prat entry on Paco Lucena.

Translator’s note:  It seems almost eerie to me that the description of Lucena’s distinguished bearing, and the nearly palpable aura of respect and admiration that always surrounded him — in such marked contrast to the typical person in his position — should so strongly evoke my and many others’ image and experience of Diego del Gastor, the inheritor of his art.

In my own efforts to understand the phenomenon of Diego del Gastor, I often seem to stumble upon the odd word “integrated”, without really understanding why.

It doesn’t seem to refer to his remarkable consistency.  And it can’t refer to the way one would hope to integrate aspects of normal life and art — Diego never had a normal life, in the sense of marriage and children, or lovers galore, or other typical aspects of human expression that are most important to most of us.  So I reluctantly conclude that it must be a kind of worshipful guru-exalting jargon, that to me he was a “fully integrated being” in some transcendental mumbo-jumbo sense.

Still, when I consider the “integrity” of Diego — no, not in the sense of honesty and incorruptibility, though this is rare enough, but rather in the sense that the man and the art were in some essential way the same thing — well, it makes me wonder:  Did that kind of bearing inevitably come with that kind of music?  Did one generate the other, and if so, which generated which?  Do I feel infinitely richer for having known Diego del Gastor, or for knowing his music, and which memory would I sacrifice if I could retain only one?

At any rate, I would like to think that somehow there was an integration of art and artist, an inseparability that made both aspects infinitely more compelling.

Okay, maybe it’s just a coincidence, this confluence of musical and personal attributes ascribed both to Paco Lucena and Diego del Gastor.  Or maybe, since Diego often expressed admiration for Lucena, he decided to emulate not just the man’s music but also his defining character.  Or maybe it took a kindred personality like Diego’s to fully understand and reinterpret Paco de Lucena, the man and the artist.


Brook Zern

P.S.  A confused recollection — I think I looked for Paco Lucena’s name after seeing a reference to him in an entry about another player.  Specifically, it was the guy who wrote a flamenco method appearing in 1902 — Julian Arcas, right?  Anyway, it referred to this (classically oriented) player as having a strong connection to Paco Lucena.  This raises the possibility that at least some of the many variations in that Arcas book would be from Paco Lucena, and this would become another important source for this unique artistic style.  I think I’ve got an illicit copy of that Arcas book somewhere.  I hope someone else does, and will take a few months to learn it all and play it all so we can begin to guess whether it really sounds like Lucena…

Note: Here’s the original Spanish version from the book, minus the accent marks…

PACO LUCENA – Francisco Diaz Hernandez – Guitarrista celebre entre los grandes del genero andaluz (vulgo: flamenco).  Nacio en Lucena el 1 de Junio de 1859, hijo de Jose Bernardino y Josefa Juana, todos del lugar nombrada de la provincia de Cordoba, Espana.  Asi dice en el certificado bautismal, folio 235 vuelto, del libro 108, que se custodia en el archivo parroquial de San Mateo.

Francisco Diaz (a) “Paco Lucena”, nombre por el que se le conocio, con el adicional de “celebre tocaor”, fue distinguida figura, que llevaba en su aureo en si una aureola de respeto y admiracion, en nada parecida a la que se observa generalmente entre los artists de su genero.  Sus bellas facciones, su porte distinguido, su arte siempre renovado con la frescura de las variantes improvisadas que tanto se dujeron e inspiraron al compositor ruso Glinka, oyendo el brujo del Albaicin “El Murciano”, hacen de el un bello exponente de la raza, extoriazado en figura y musica.

Recuerdo de mi finado padre, al exaltar la memoria de su genero unico, decia: “Que asistir una de sus sesiones era presenciar una exposicion de cuadros multicolores, animados con la fuerza del sol de Andalucia.  Necesitaba de las sublimidades de su guitarra para una sensibilidad que rayaba en lo sobrenatural.  Producia hermosos efectos de pedreria moruna cuando arqueaba su pecho sobre la guitarra, tal vez impelido, sin darse cuenta, por la dolencia que tan prematuramente nos llevara tambian a Chopin.

Lastima grande que a estos geniales creadores del arte, no les alcanzara — !y todo por razon de tiempo! — , la indudable satisfaccion de escucharse reflejados en un disco.  Sus verdaderos valores, pues, no lo sabremos mas que por los cronicas del epoca.

En la misma ciudad de Lucena, y a los 39 anos, se apaga la vida de este sublime “tocaor”, el 24 de Maya de 1898.  (Copiado del certificado de difuncion).”

Basta ya.

Brook Zern

I can’t remember just what Diego del Gastor told me about Paco Lucena, though he cited him often.

I know that Diego would play some terrific falsetas in his E-major Alegrias, smile, and say “Lucena”.  That would certainly seem to be a mark of approval, if not admiration.  About the only other instance where he incanted a name was when he was inserting into Bulerias some of the catchy Andalusian folk melodies that Federico Garcia Lorca collected and played on the piano (did Lorca really find those gems?) and he would say “Federico”, in an obvious expression of admiration and outright delight.

I certainly asked him about Lucena more than once, and I kind of took it for granted that he had high regard for the man.  But I think he never, or hardly ever, cited Lucena when showing his own signature pieces — bulerias, soleá and siguiriyas.  I concluded that his approach to these forms was not deeply indebted to Lucena, or to anyone else for that matter.  (For that matter, Diego didn’t mention Lucena in discussing his own fine Alegrias in A major or C major, as I recall.)ia

But I don’t know for sure.  I’d love to know what any of his nephews said about Diego’s view of Lucena and the extent to which he played the guy’s material, and would gladly take their word over my fuzzy recollections.  Not that anyone ever agrees with anyone else, of course.

(I made a few cassette tapes of some lessons with Diego, but while the playing is audible enough, a lot of the conversation is too muddy to hear.  I believe others made similar tapes, and frankly, I would love to see an effort made to append Diego’s spoken comments about particular falsetas to those falsetas themselves — as well as a transcription of his general comments about flamenco and anything else, of course.  I know it sounds like over-the-top idolatry to those who don’t buy into the Diego thing, but come to think of it, it would be great to transcribe recorded commentary by any notable guitarist about specific falsetas and more general points.)

(Singers, too, of course — someone on the order of, say, Manolito de la María, if only recordings of his conversations were to somehow come to light…hey, one never knows.)

A final muddled thought: an expert correspondent tentatively suggests that if Diego didn’t credit Lucena as a main source or inspiration, perhaps it was because he wanted to play down the fact that the Morón sound originated in Cordoba (Lucena).

I’ve always assumed there’s a characteristic sound of Cordoba flamenco.  It’s brighter, gayer — or less dark, anyway — and epitomized by the very non-Gypsy-sounding soleá de Cordoba and the alegrías de Cordoba.  While that alegrías spends some time in the minor, I think the overall sound is very clearly echoed in the major-key falsetas that Diego attributed to Paco Lucena — logically enough.

But that distinctive quality doesn’t seem to be expressed in the soleá, siguiriyas or bulerías as they’ve existed in Morón for the last half-century.  All the more reason why I tend to think that somebody else came up with the “Morón sound” — mainly Diego himself, though possibly with considerable influence from other players, notably Niño Alvarez (who studied with Lucena) and Pepe Naranjo, who may have learned mainly from Alvarez and might have developed a more independent style — at least in these particular forms.

Brook Zern

“Paco Fandango” from Prat’s Encyclopedia

I managed to record a second entry from the Diccionario de Guitarristas by Domingo Prat from the mid-1930′s, simply because it was right above the Paco Lucena info already discussed.  It’s nominally about a guitarist I never heard of, but it covers a lot of general ground (the original Spanish entry also appears below).

“PACO FANDANGO – Famous player of Andalusian flamenco guitar, appearing in 1885; he was the teacher of Antonio Mistrot, brother of Eduardo; he played a Torres guitar.  Like so many other “tocaores” or players, he became a noted figure in all the tablaos of Spain, bringing with him the song and dance that was forged with the blood and guts of the “raza” (group or race, possibly meaning Gypsy.)  Consulting the works of the good Uruguayan writer Carlos Reyles, who wrote “El Embrujo de Sevilla”, we can say that Paco Fandango and all the other players like him, brought to the tablao stage, recovered from the stream and refined to be reborn as a musical organism, the “cante” or song, which he illustrates on the guitar with such art and evocative power.  These bohemian artists with their picturesque lifestyles, many of them unknown by their real names (which they themselves might not have known), are known by nicknames, sometimes resounding, sometimes dramatic.  These nicknames, with their roots in the people, certainly give a clear idea of the idiosyncrasies of the artists.”

“As we do in this book with the ‘payadores-guitarristas‘ [?] and the ‘guitarrista-cantores‘ [guitarist-singers] of South America, we include here the names of those who cultivate the flamenco genre by bringing to the public, creating a new patrimony, those songs which are expressed through the medium of the guitar.  Among these outstanding artists are Carmencita González, who at the age of 11, in February of 1930, displayed her rich artistry in a Madrid theater, presented by her teacher, the famous “Patena”.  Carmen Flores, Teresita Espana, Amalia Molina, Perico del Lunar, Niño Ricardo, El Rojo, Manolo Bulerías, Martell, Luís Molina, Marcelo Molina, Nino Savicas [Sabicas], Alfonso del Valle Leon, Juan Crespo, Antonio Moreno, Jorge Lopez, Chato Valencia, Alfonso Aguilera and some others who are listed individually due to their fame and unquestioned abilities as players.”

End of entry.

It would seem that author Domingo Prat uses this entry to give a nod to the many anonymous or little-known players of flamenco, and also to list a batch of people he’s heard about but couldn’t cover in any detail.  Wish I’d had the chance to look at for entries that might have discussed, say, Ramón Montoya, and Javier Molina, and perhaps many other flamenco players.

But the book is well known, and maybe someone will have a chance to spend some time with it to seek more flamenco info in the future.

Brook Zern

Here’s the entry on Paco Fandango in the original, missing the accents — I might’ve misinterpreted some notions in the above translation:

PACO FANDANGO – Famoso ejecutante en el toque flamenco andaluz de actuacion por el ano 1885, fue maestro de Antonio Mistrot, hermano de Eduardo; pulsaba en guitarra “Torres”.  Como tantos otros “tocaores”, se hizo notar por todos los tablaos de Espana, llevando a ellos la cancion y la danza, hechas con la sangre y las entranas de la raza.  Glosando al buen escritor uruguayano Carlos Reyles, autor de “El Embrujo de Sevilla”, podemos decir que Paco Fandango y todos los “tocaores” como el, han llevado al “tablao”, recogido del arroyo refinado acrisolado y convertido en organismo musical, el “cante” que ilustra en la guitarra con tanto arte y fuerza evocativa.  Estos artistas bohemios de vida pintoresca, muchos de ellos ignorados por sus nombres y apellidos (ignorancia que en muchos casos tienen ellos mismos), son conocidos por apelativos resuenos unas veces, dramaticos otros; apelativos que siendo oriundos del pueblo, tienen la certeza de dar la cabal idea de la idiosincracia del “tocaor”.

Como hacemos con los payadores-guitarristas y guitarristas-cantores de Sudamerica, asi incluimos aqui los nombres de los cultores del genero flamenco por el hecho de llevar hacia el pueblo, haciendo luego patrimonio de el, los cantos que expresan por intermedio de la guitarra.  Entre los que se han destacado y podemos nombrar, figuran Carmencita Gonzalez, que a los 11 anos, en Febrero de 1930, lucio su arte pleno en riquezas, en un teatro de Madrid, presentado por su maestro, el famoso “Patena”.  Carmen Flores, Teresita Espana, Amalia Molina, Perico el del Lunar, Nino Ricardo, El Rojo, Manolo Bulerias, Martell, Luis Molina, Marcelo Molina, Nino Savicas [Sabicas], Alfonso del Valle Leon, Juan Crespo, Antonio Moreno, Jorge Lopez, Chato Valencia, Alfonso Aguilera y algunos otros que se incluyen individualmente dado su notoriedad e indudables valores ejecutantes.


February 6, 2014   1 Comment