Category — The Morón School of Flamenco Guitar
Translator’s Note: Here’s one of my old posts to an extinct discussion group:
Date: Thurs, Apr 2, 1998 12:05 PM EDT
Subj: Diego evaluated by Chato de la Isla – translating Rafael Moreno
There’s a welcome post from Rafael Moreno, who adds some high-octane fuel to the “Was Diego Any Good?” conflagration with a quote from a book by Salvador Aleu Zuazo about a noted singer titled “El Chato de la Isla, Entre la Vida y el Cante“. Chato, born in 1926 and noted for his originality within traditional bounds, has made numerous recordings, with accompaniment by the likes of Paco de Lucía and Manolo Sanlucar. He says:
“And I don’t want to forget a guitarist who made a tremendous impression on me from the first time I heard him: Diego del Gastor. He never accompanied me in public, but when I was in Madrid we ended up together in the Venta el Poli on the road to Barcelona, working together for several fiestas (reuniones).
This man was pure glory, pure heaven, in his playing. What timing, what compás, what a sweet sound. This was what’s truly called ‘accompaniment for singing’.
I believe that with a guitarist like Diego, it was impossible not to sing well, because the cante came out by itself. Anyway, things being what they are, it was a long time before we were together again and he accompanied me. But now it wasn’t the same, because he had lost some of his facility (facultades). Yet even then, it was like heaven to listen to his toques. It was as if an angel were playing the guitar.”
Thanks, Rafael. Whaddya know — yet another singer with an ear for guitar music. I’d love to know the years of that first and that second encounter. There are no recordings of the young Diego…
May 6, 2014 1 Comment
Translator’s note: This article was recently added to the website or Facebook page ARCHIVOS FLAMENCOMORON [note the run-together second word], which is amassing information, photos and reports about Morón de la Frontera, its history, its flamenco and its people. Like many entries, this was added by the extraordinary dancer Pepe Torres [who signs on as Pepe Torres Bailaor Torres]. Here it is:
But… what was Diego del Gastor really like?
In his case, it is hard to separate the man from the artist. He was, above all, profoundly human, and human contradictions were part of him: cordial and warm, yet shy and reserved; complicated yet elemental; intuitive and rational; introverted and sharing; traditional and progressive; funny and melancholy…all these diverse components that revealed his individuality still seemingly live in our air, in his enchanted hands, his mane of a hallucinatory whiteness, his voice of worn anguish, his vertiginous rage against pretense or egotism.
We still sense his warm presence, his sensitive friendship, his tender silence when thinking about a child or looking at flowers… his venerable air of an exiled archangel, with the forehead of a patriarch and the smile of a good child.
There was something of García Lorca in him, thin and tall, with that natural elegance of an impoverished or dethroned king that is sometimes found in men or women of his race. He was as old as a mountain and as ingenuous as a little child, strong from the austerity of his life and delicate from the sensibility that lent the image of a lily – but an incorruptible, never-fading lily. And today we feel that Andalusians like him are in good measure the image of Andalusia itself.
Diego withstood in Morón the difficult years of the 40’s, and then entered the 50’s and 60’s. He never went abroad or joined the flamenco shows and spectacles, he didn’t make any recordings, thanks to his spiritual wealth, his exoticism, his bohemian romanticism and even his foolishness…He survived in Morón through flamenco fiestas among friends and some well-to-do gentlemen, living only through his guitar.
With the slights and snubs and bitterness that he often bore in those decades, especially for a artist like him after those hard tests, Diego retained his elegance of spirit, his peculiar integrity, his dislike of egotism and strictly materialist values. He seemed to be a disconcerting mixture of pride and humility…
Some said he was crazy, and in some way it was true – according to the standards of the thoughtless or the bourgeois.
Later in his life, times changed and the circumstances of his life improved, to the point that he was welcomed into relatively expansive circles within and beyond Morón, without being corrupted. He made trips to Ronda and to El Gastor, his places of origin. It was a time of recognition and prizes, reported by the newspapers and other media. This state of affairs contributed on the one hand to increased general prestige for flamenco in more or less intellectual circles, and on the other hand to the arrival of a flow of foreigners from many nations, attracted by flamenco song and by the artistic and personal magnetism of the man from El Gastor. They went to live in Morón and to study guitar with Diego – classes that were usually as unpredictable and fascinating as the maestro himself. In this sense, it can be said that before Diego attained nationwide renown in Spain he had already earned an international reputation. Those exotic students of Diego proliferated, but that doesn’t mean he created a true school of guitar playing among those disciples. The only school that such a personal artist could leave was the imprint he gave to the excellent local guitarist Manolo Morilla, and that represented by his nephews Paco, Juan, Agustín, and the son of Joselero de Morón, Dieguito.
Each have their own artistic approach and sensibility, carrying in their hands and their blood bits of the musical styles and even the duende of the master himself.
Even the unknowing listener will realize that their guitars sound different from all others.
Nonetheless, his creative vein was developed in melodic variations in the styles of soleá, siguiriyas and bulerías, sometimes borrowed by other players…
And nonetheless, beyond the depth, flavor and Gypsy purity of his playing, perhaps the most outstanding aspect of his art was the most non-transferrable: the singular “aire” that permeated all of his playing. The chilling duende that deepens, capable of crushing the chests of the listeners with moving beauty, and then suddenly relaxing its grip.
When the trance generated by his guitar suddenly appeared, all fell silent and some who were drawn into the realm of this Gypsy were paralyzed, petrified, their faces frozen into a strange expression of sweet, embracing mysticism.
It was as if they had been bewitched by the light of an ancient moon that left in their features an almost pantheistic heritage of who-knows-what vanished race or civilization, an extract of tears from past woes running down their cheeks,
Diego del Gastor resembled no one.
And those who heard him will never forget.
Today, years after his death, the memory of his presence and the magic of his music still light our way and ennoble us, inspiring us, wounding us; it does to our hearts what the wind does to the flowers.
Alberto García Ulecia.
End of translation, made from a problematic handmade Spanish transcription (corrections welcome) seen at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1440972206139022/1452363348333241/?notif_t=group_activity
March 18, 2014 No Comments
Thanks to Froilan for submitting a scanned text from an unnamed book written by the noted Cadiz writer Fernando Quiñones. (Note that Quiñones was widely noted and well regarded as an author, in addition to his well-respected work as a pioneer flamencologist.)
The text dealt with our favorite bugaboo, Diego del Gastor. Froilan says the scanner made some silly errors. Worse yet, I have trouble with the wide and subtle vocabulary and have sometimes resorted to guesses or approximations — so my shoddy translation should be even more suspect than usual and corrections will be welcome:
Chapter 49 – Diego del Gastor
“In ’66, trailed by a truck loaded with Catalan technicians, José Manuel Caballero [Bonald] went from the South of Spain on up, recording the memorable “Archivo del Cante Flamenco”, finding things from the most out-of-the-way places. I accompanied him on two of those field trips.
In Morón de la Frontera, where the plains recall the equestrian shades of the [local] poet Fernando Villalón who combined aspects of bullfighter and bull-breeder (as poet Rafael Albertí portrays him), we arrived at the appointed time. The first task was to recoup our strength in a bar, with a dish of noodles and a tapa of spinanch with beans…
Our man appeared by the second cup. The guitarist Diego del Gastor, the pure exponent of a toque (style) that is both personal and classic at the same time, and who afterwards would leave a school rich with falsetas that were as serendipitous in invention as they were undocumented on recordings.
He was well on in years, white-haired, svelte and erect in his black suit, with the bearing of a true gentleman, a quick glint in his eye, a simple and elegantly thoughtful air bespeaking a discreet sensitivity. Somehow, thanks to something within this Gypsy, we were — improbably enough — reminded of someone as distant from him as anyone could be: Sir Bertrand Russell, who is also described in the pages of this work.
Among the serious artists sought out for the Archivo recordings, there were many whose bearing and manner fit the popular image of simple, rough-edged and sometimes dissolute folks: La Piriñaca in Jerez, Santiago Donday in Cadiz, [Manuel] El de Angustias in Utrera or, in Alcala de Guadaira, the ineffable Manolito del de María. But this Diego del Gastor — well, he was something else again.
In this humble social setting, he seemed to shine with a different light. This man from el Gastor (a tiny town in the mountains behind Cadiz, from which he was taken while still young to Morón de la Frontera) — was he not a gentleman in every sense of the word, possessing a concentrated education and deep knowlege?
My techological illiteracy meant I didn’t know if it were possible to make an important recording outside of a studio in the 1960′s. What I did know was that very few if any had been made in an alcove off a small bedroom, with the recording engineers on the bed and the cables attached to naked light bulb outlets.
There was no choice but to arrange ourselves against these thin walls — all of us including the director, the artists, assistants, some friends and relatives, the technicians and — inexcusably or inexplicably — a Yankee from the unwanted Morón Air Base with his wife and his friend or paramour in a situation radiating the tension of such triangles. And so there we were, the whole bunch, in a scene straight out of the Marx Brothers “A Night at the Opera”.
Yet oddly enough, given the level of chaos, the recordings would turn out well, thanks to the great Diego del Gastor and the much less great [“macho menus grande“, (sic) presumably “mucho menos grande“] singer Joselero, the brother-in-law of the maestro and, like him, a Gypsy.
Our initial impression of the music and the character of Diego del Gastor only grew stronger throughout the night — perhaps the only night (and please excuse this unfortunate and egotistical aside) in which I myself sang, after the real task had been completed but while the atmosphere and the wine still pervaded that tight little place.
In truth, one couldn’t really remember what happened, except the look of surprise on the faces, the mottled aspect of Joselero, the taste of the cante, and the intensely concentrated pleasure of Diego del Gastor, who lost his circumspect air at one point and joined me, cheek to jowl, for a few funky bulerias in their own special rhythm.
And that’s the way it was — “resbalaitas” [life's little slips and blunders??]…”
End of translation.
Note that Fernando Quiñones described this same magic night when he wrote an obituary for Diego del Gastor in Blanco y Negro in July of 1973, which appears elsewhere in this blog. We learn that Quiñones also profiles Bertrand Russell in the same book, which helps explain why the image of the philosopher from Cambridge sprang to his mind when he saw Diego, the philosopher from Life Itself.
February 11, 2014 No Comments
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.
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).”
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.
“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.
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