Amir John Haddad
9 Guitarras (Galileo Music Communication, 2013)
Every once in a while, one hears of a news story about the relationship between a musician and his or her instrument like ones about how the instrument that gets its own airline seat, the devastation over a lost or destroyed instrument or the instrument stolen or left in the back of a cab. B.B. King went so far as to name all his guitars Lucille after a bar fight between two men over a woman named Lucille that eventually led to a tragic fire in 1949.
Eric Clapton once told how he mourned the loss of his guitar collection in an auction for charity. I would guess that relationship between a musician and beloved instrument, whether that musician is famed worldwide or just a back porch strummer, is about as difficult to explain as why one person loves another.
While tribute songs might come along, there are few tribute albums to the instruments and those that make them. Well, musician Amir John Haddad or El Amir has done just that, conjured up a tribute album called 9 Guitarras on the Galileo Music Communications label. After a ten year stint with Radio Tarifa, playing with some of flamenco’s legendary guitarists and musicians and a 2006 release of his debut recording Pasando Por Tabernas, El Amir pays tribute to some of Spain’s revered flamenco luthiers, while giving listeners an opportunity to be introduced to each guitar by way of this collection of stunning tracks that brings to life the shades of flamenco.
While clearly rooted in the flamenco tradition, El Amir has chosen to offer up a new take on flamenco with additions of Arabic oud, bouzouki, Moroccan percussion, electric bass, mandolin, violin and synthesizer. Opening with the fiery “Suena El Viento,” listeners get an impossibly rich listen power packed with percussion by Kike Terron; guitar and bouzouki by El Amir and the delicious vocals of Maria Carmona.
With an elegant guitar opening, “Punta Y Tacon” soon gives way to dazzling guitar runs backed by palmas by Rafael Peral and flamenco steps by Joaquin Ruiz. Equally good are tracks like the lovely “Recuerdos” with El Amir alone on a Manuel Reyes guitar or the breezy “Dos Palomas Vuelan” with Jesus Maneru on snare, cymbals and djembe; Peter Oteo on electric bass, Thomas Vogt on synthesizer and El Amir on guitar and bouzouki.
Perhaps one of the best tracks is the Arabic infused “Al-Mawsili” that simply overflows with violin, percussion, palmas sound effects, guitar, Arabic oud and bouzouki. El Amir ends 9 Guitarras interestingly enough playing the Jose Lopez Bellido guitar, the same guitar that he has played on stage for the last 10 years on “Origen Del Silencio.”
Rich and sumptuous, 9 Guitarras is monstrously good. Rooted squarely in the flamenco tradition, El Amir isn’t at all shy about stepping out on a limb to bring freshness to that tradition. While giving a photo and a brief note about each of the 9 guitars in the liner notes, there is no mention about whether El Amir giggled like a girl over a particular guitar, but I have my suspicions due to the sheer love that comes through the music.
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