Anda, Jaleo – flamenco banjo with Lluis Gomez

For quite some time, Barcelona banjo player Lluis Gomez has been recognized as the most visible and recognized practitioner of his instrument in Spain. Picking up the five string in adulthood, following many years of musical training in classical guitar and contemporary harmony, Lluis became completely smitten with banjo only after hearing the Paris Banjo Session album, recorded in 1975, and featuring Bill Keith and Jim Rooney along with top French bluegrass artists.

Starting with Keith certainly took Lluis’ banjo in a modern direction, and though he is an expert player of more typical American bluegrass music, his efforts have primarily included both new and traditional music of the Catalan region of Spain, native to his culture. Evidence for Gomez’s skill in bluegrass banjo comes from his authorship of several instructional books on this method, including the only such ever published in Spanish.

Of late his interests have been running to flamenco, the indigenous folk music of southern Spain, whose influence has reached Gomez in the northeastern part of the Mediterranean nation. His latest album, Dotze Temps, includes 11 tracks drawn from the flamenco tradition, along with a number of his own compositions.

Speaking of the album, he explains how this sort of music crept up on him.

“I have not had a direct influence from flamenco, but throughout my life, without being very conscious, it is a sound that has accompanied me, and is familiar and very attractive. It sparked my interest and that is why I titled the album Dotze Temps, after the twelve beats of the flamenco compás.”

A first single from this project is available, one called Anda, Jaleo, which combines a well-known guitar soleá, a song type common in flamenco noted for its slow and stately form, compiled by 19th century poet Federico García Lorca. Following this soleá, the medley turns to Gitanos Andaluces, a falseta, or short dance tune, from Paco de Lucía, which completes the track.

While no part of bluegrass, we expect that fans of the banjo will be fascinated with what Lluis has done, not only in arranging these popular melodies for the five string, but also in how well it fits in with this 200 year old style of music.

With Gomez on this number are Maribel Rivero on bass and lead vocal, Ondra Kozák on guitar, Raphaël Maillet on fiddle, and Sicus Carbonell on palms, the distinctive flamenco clap. All the musicians participate in the chorus singing.

Check it out and see what you think.

Anda, Jaleo, and the full Dotze Temps album, are available worldwide from the popular download and streaming services online. They can also be purchased directly from the artist on bandcamp, as a download.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.