Jorge Pardo: In a Minute Liner Notes

 

              “There are many magical things about this album,” Jorge Pardo says of In A Minute, his seventh solo recording. Jorge works his band through a world of stylistic influences. Ruben Dantas’ cajon, the hand-clapping, Augustin Carbonell and El Bola’s guitars, and La Conchi’s vocals keep the record firmly rooted in the flamenco Jorge has championed over the last two decades.  The trombone of Uve Larsen, Dantas’ congas, Carles Benavent’s bass, the synthesizers of co-producer Jesus Pardo (Jorge’s brother) take the music places flamenco wouldn’t have considered twenty years ago.  All of this stems from Jorge’s own musical choices, and his flute and sax work

              The pre-eminent nuevo flamenco woodwind player, Jorge recognizes just what an anomalous position he occupies.  He also realizes how his place in the musical world speaks for the changes in the global community of sound.

              “Terms like flamenco or jazz fusion or straight jazz,” he explains, “all those kind of words, they start to have no meaning to me. The music I play has influences from many different musics.  It’s not the flamenco language, it’s not the jazz language.  I grew up with all these influences.  What we really do is our music. It is born of a new thing.”

              That new thing revived the moribund art of flamenco over the last two decades.  Flamenco, a tradition hundreds of years old had, on the one hand, turned into a music predominantly played for tourists in its most garish form.  On the other hand, it remained a folk music among the Gypsies, in its most basic form.  The nuevo flamenco movement gave the music contemporary relevance.  Jorge may not be a hereditary flamenco (the art tends to move among dynastic families, like the Habichuelos/Carmonas of Ketama and La Barberia del Sur, or the Reyes and Baliardos of the Gipsy Kings), but he has played a large and unique part in the world’s recognition of flamenco as a contemporary and vibrant music.  For Jorge, the journey started when Paco De Lucia hired him and Benavent to help explore the jazz De Lucia felt in flamenco.

              “Jorge Pardo doesn't come from flamenco,” De Lucia notes, “but I know him for a long time.  At that time, I needed to know other musicians who really knew harmonies.  In flamenco, we really had at that time nice harmonizes.  Very easy, tonal harmonization.  So, we started to play together, and he came into the flamenco. He started to understand the flamenco and stayed there forever.  After ten, twelve years they brought a new sound to flamenco.  A bass player?  I never played flamenco with a bass player before, or with a saxophone or with a flute.  Now, all the flamenco groups in Spain have this instrumentation.”

              DeLucia’s mingling of the ‘flamenco puro’ with elements like jazz spurred many young flamenco players to consider updating their musical roots.  The music reached a world wide popular apex with the Gipsy Kings, but they represent the top of a very large iceberg.  Flamenco artists reached out to Afro-Cuban rhythms, to rock, to jazz.  In many ways, the recent expansion and mutation of flamenco it has parallels to the rise and growth of the blues as they made the transition from the country to the city during the 30s and 40s.

            “Flamenco, up until the last 30 or 40 years has been music from the countryside, really,” Jorge expounds. “It was made in small villages in Andalucia. When Flamenco came to the big city and met the rest of the world of music, it became bigger. When flamenco went to the cities and met other instruments, out of the flamenco at the time came other harmonies and other rhythms.”

              Rather than simply embracing flamenco and jazz, In A Minute amalgamates many of those cosmopolitan influences, making it the most diverse, challenging and rewarding album Jorge has recorded.  “That’s why I called the album In A Minute,” he says.  “I found a lot of coincidences in the patterns of the different rhythms in flamenco in some Caribbean and African rhythms.  Much music I’ve been very close to uses the same kind of patterns,  this 2/3 or 3/2.  In a buleria, it’s a rhythm that’s in three parts, but it’s ordered in five different accents.  There are some other rhythms, like the Cuban ronroco and Cajun music from New Orleans.  They use the same type of pattern of five different accents.  Some music from Northern Africa and fandango do it, and solea, buleria and segueria.  I found a lot of coincidences between them.  That’s why I tried to put the buleria and the fandango together, and it works, and solea and a ronroco together and it keeps working.”

              The twenty-one pieces on In A Minute work like a series of small suites. Four or five compositions at a time blend and bleed into each other, never allowing listeners to catch their breath. Tunes like “Post Columbiana” fuse Jorge’s jazz and flamenco background with a rhythm section that meets somewhere between the Bahamas and Burkina Faso.   “Abalorios Y Avatares” has rhythmic roots in Harare and Havana. Benavent’s brawny bass propels “El Jardin De Las Caricias” into deep Spanish funk.

              These rhythmic revelations partially stem from the album’s melodic diversity.  The variety of melodies, grew organically from  the way Jorge created the music in the first place. His previous recordings started with the rhythm section and built the wind parts on top of that.  In A Minute started with improvised melodies on the flute and saxophone.

            “I used a lot of recordings of my own improvisations that I put onto a hard disc,” he expands. “I used the improvisations as proper melodies.  Then I re-harmonized them and orchestrated them.  It’s not very typical, the way I did this album. That’s something I liked the first time I started working this way. Nothing is played twice or three times.  Everything came from the initial improvisation. Then I brought everybody together, and we decided about the arrangements, the way we usually do. Instead of everybody playing on the rhythm, everybody played on the melody.”

              This mirrors the way many stalwarts of post-bop jazz create, particularly Ornette Coleman.  This is not lost on Jorge, who plays a short but affecting version of Coleman’s “Law Years” on the album.

            “Ornette is one of the greatest musicians of this century,” Jorge asserts. “‘Law Years’ is a very short melody of Ornette’s that I put right on a buleria rhythm.  He would be shocked, because it’s very different. Maybe he’d like it.” 

              Jorge offers tributes to other American jazz musicians as well.  The brief song “Pastorius De Belen,” continuing off the rhythms established in “Post Colombiana” (and subsequently continued in “Mapas Y  Cartas”), uses the melody of a Spanish Christmas carol to pay homage to the great bassist (and make a terrible pun -- the actual title of the carol is “Pastores de Belen”).  Similarly, morphing the Caribbean rhythms into something closer to salsa, largely thanks to Larsen’s stunning horn work, “Gracias, Lou!” offers props to one of Jorge’s lesser known influence, Lou Bennett.

              “Lou Bennett was an American organ player,” Jorge explains.  “He was one of the jazz players who came to Europe during those years.  He was living in France, and the last years of his life, he lived in Spain.  He brought to many Spanish musicians a different language, his jazz language.  I was thinking of asking him to play on this track, but I couldn’t, because he died before I could record it.  So, I named it after him.”

              Similarly, “Via Bombay” takes on the vaguely Asian feel of the title. “I’m a big fan of the Indian flute players, like Hariprasad,” he admits.

              With In A Minute, Jorge Pardo projects himself into a broader musical mainstream while remaining close to his roots in jazz and flamenco.  Where 20 years ago, people would have insisted that his two influences were totally incompatible, Jorge’s music with De Lucia and on his own tell a different story.  Starting with the languages of flamenco and jazz, and adding on musical tones and tongues from around the world, Jorge Pardo has invented his own idiom, unique and new.  To understand, however, all you have to do is listen.