"City of Ideas"
Nothing has been lost in the translation now that "Ciudad de las Ideas," winner of a Latin Grammy last year for "Best Flamenco Album," has been released in the United States under the title "City of Ideas." Spanish guitar virtuoso Vicente Amigo's sure-handed grasp of flamenco traditions is just as apparent as his desire to reach out to a contemporary audience.
Fortunately, the Cordoba-bred Amigo isn't merely interested in attracting New Age or Smooth Jazz airplay. There's a distinct World Beat flavor to much of the music, especially when Algerian rai king Khaled contributes a stirring vocal to "Eyes of the Alhambra," or when "Manuel, My Friend" takes on the dramatic pulse of tango. There are also moments when the alternately percussive and singing tones produced by Amigo's remarkable handiwork point to two strong influences: flamenco guitar icon Paco de Lucia and jazz luminary Pat Metheny. This is crossover music, no question about it, but not the sort that sounds insincere or overly calculated.
The most accessible tracks, including the album's rhythmically alluring opening cut, "Three Notes to Say I Love You," feature a fashionable blend of bass, drums, brass and background vocals, while the melancholy coda "Vicente's Bolero" finds Amigo playing against a lush backdrop of strings. The guitarist is never more soulful, however, than when left to his own devices during the minor-key meditation "Cordoba (Solea)."
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Tuesday at the Barns of Wolf Trap. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Vicente Amigo, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8122. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)