“El Maestro” Paco de Lucia released his first solo recording La Fabulosa Guitarra de Paco de Lucia in 1967 on Phillips records when he was 19 years old. He had recorded on compilation albums and as back-up guitarist to singers, but this was his first solo and it proved that this young flamenco guitarist was someone very special.
Typical of most flamenco artists in Spain, he came from a family of musicians and started playing the guitar when he was five years old. The young Francisco Sánchez (Paco), being the youngest of five sons, was given lessons by both his father, Antonio Sánchez, and his brother, Ramon. He later took the name “Paco de Lucia” in honor of his mother, Lucia Gòmez. In 1958, Paco de Lucia gave up going to school in order to concentrate on his guitar. At this time, he played his first public performance accompanying his brother, Pepe, who sang cante flamenco. Even then he was recognized as a talented emerging guitar player as he won various prizes for his musicianship.
Paco de Lucia, along with the late cantaor (singer) Cameron de la Isla, is considered to be integral to the revival of the art of flamenco. Not that flamenco was completely dying out, but in its pure form, it was only found in the pena (flamenco club). While Sevillanas were still done at festivals, mostly the flamenco performed in public was relegated to that which pleased tourists to Spain — the exotic looking frilly polka dot dresses and castanet playing kind. Artists like Paco de Lucia emerged on the scene with his impeccable style fusing the tradition with outside influences such as jazz, bossa nova, and salsa. He became known as the master of the buleria, the lively 12-count rhythm that is the fastest in flamenco and is extremely open to improvisation. Yet, while being technically perfect, Paco de Lucia manages to maintain the soulful quality or duende that is characteristic of the flamenco artist. He sounds as if he has twenty very dexterous fingers all moving independently.
His first solo recording was purely traditional flamenco; and as far as his guitar playing goes, he has always remained a “flamenco guitarist.” Through the years, he has experimented with playing along side jazz musicians but he remains true to his roots nonetheless. His guitar emerges as the star of the show no matter with whom he plays (except maybe alongside another consummate flamenco guitarist like Tomatito).
Although he has a large body of recordings, Cositas Buenas (Good Little Things) is his first in five years and is self-produced with the collaboration of Javier Limón. As one would expect, it is a masterpiece. For the most part, he composed all the music except for two pieces — “El Dengue”, which he co-wrote with Juan D’Anyelica (who joins Paco de Lucia on guitar for this one) and “Que Venga El Alba”, for which he wrote the music and with the lyrics written by José Monte Cruz and José Sanchez. This latter song, “Que Venga El Alba”, is sung by the late Cameron De La Isla, truly one of the greatest cantaor of all times and with the extra added treat of having Tomatito, another master of the flamenco guitar and De La Isla’s main collaborator, also joining in. (Even if the rest of the album was terrible, which it is not, it would be worth it just for this one track!)
Although he has a number of extraordinarily talented musicians and singers joining him on the recording, Paco de Lucia and his guitar are the standouts, of course. “Antonina”, one of the most beautiful pieces on the album, was written by Paco de Lucia for his daughter and it is on this composition that he lends his voice as well as his guitar. He actually sings quite well. (In the poetically beautiful liner notes, the writer describes it as “with ‘Antonina’ perched on your knee, you have disguised your rage behind a profound serenity.” Indeed). Even Antonina herself shouts “ole” a few times.
Although Paco de Lucia is one of the world’s greatest guitar players, he also plays lute, bouzouki, and mandolin on Cositas Buenas. He uses guitars of his own design throughout the album except on “Casa Bernardo”, where he uses a “Lester Devoer” guitar.
For those already familiar with the greats of flamenco music, Paco de Lucia needs no introduction, of course. While for the most part, my choice would always be for a recording with just guitar and cantaores, nonetheless, Cositas Buenas is a fabulous introduction to Paco de Lucia’s art and to flamenco music with modern influences.