Masterful Hands

Dave Holland & Pepe Habichuela

Hands (Dare2 Records DR2-006, 2010)

The album Hands falls in the category of memorable collaborations. In this occasion, renowned English jazz bassist Dave Holland meets a leading figure in Flamenco guitar, Pepe Habichuela, an innovator and one of the patriarchs of a legendary Gypsy musical family, the Carmona family of Granada. While Dave Holland provides his evocative acoustic bass, Pepe Habichuela brings his fiery guitar and several members of his large family, including former members of the seminal Flamenco crossover bands Ketama and la Barberia del Sur.

Hands is the real thing, Flamenco music at its best, with pieces by Pepe Habichuela, his son Josemi Carmona and Dave Holland. “I had no intention of putting Pepe in a jazz context and expecting him to play that way,” Holland explains. “So for me the real joy of this was to get into Pepe’s world and absorb that.”

Holland met Habichuela (real name José Antonio Carmona Carmona), as part of a ‘jazz meets flamenco’ pairing put together by the Cultural Department of the Andalusian regional government. Holland fell in love with flamenco culture. He participated in a party held in Granada’s gypsy quarter, overlooking the Alhambra Moorish palace. “We had great flamenco music and food, a fire burning,” says Holland. “It was a magical atmosphere, the culmination of everything.”

Although Flamenco musicians have been playing with bassists for many years, most of the time they use electric bass, following the path created by Carlos Benavent. Dave Holland does an outstanding job on the upright bass, immersing himself in the complex world of Flamenco and its numerous subgenres. “On the taranta on the album (‘Camaron’), I’m taking the role of the vocal with Pepe accompanying me. I had heard the great flamenco vocalist Camaron sing it, and I knew I had to live up to that. At the same time, I didn’t want to stray too far while finding my own way.”

Israel Porrina 'Piraña', Juan Carmona, Dave Holland, Josemi Carmona, Pepe Habichuela and Carlos Carmona. Photo by Cesar Marino.
The music was rehearsed in Madrid and played live in Jerez and Tarrasa. It was later recorded in Madrid, where Pepe Habichuela and his children are based. The musicians included in the album are: Dave Holland on bass, Pepe Habichuela on guitar, Josemi Carmona on guitar, Carlos Carmona on guitar, Israel Porrina ‘Piraña’ on cajón and percussion and Juan Carmona on cajón and percussion. “I think fifteen or twenty years ago, I would not have been ready to do this project emotionally. I needed to reach this stage in my life to feel it,” Holland notes. “When it came, I really was ready to receive it and respond to the emotion requirements of the music, keeping an open mind and letting things resonate.”

Hands is an impressive work of Flamenco art by the outstanding creative minds of Dave Holland and Pepe Habichuela.

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Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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