Beyond Liner Notes
by Robin Broadbank
formerly associated with Nimbus Records
and co-producer of
three of Paco del Gastor's CDs.
I first came across flamenco, like a lot of other guitarists, through Juan Martín's El Arte Flamenco book. This was in the early eighties. I hadn't really heard much flamenco before then. There was next to nothing live apart from big touring companies, very little on the radio and only a few quirky LPs by people like Carlos Montoya and Manitas de Plata. I was playing guitar and very curious about all sorts of music, like Afghan rubab, kora, raga, gamelan. In the seventies I'd driven overland to India from England a couple of times to record Tibetan music and worked on documentaries about Tibetan Buddhism.
Anyhow in my mid thirties I landed a full time job (first for many years) with a record company - Nimbus. I remember coming across Diego del Gastor's name for the first time in a brief mention in Martín's book and then I think I saw a little ad in a guitar magazine for a Diego cassette. What a revelation. Badly recorded and copied god knows how many times, he sounded in good company, among friends in a bar somewhere, but what came across was such power and truth and humour. This was the real deal. I got hold of Pohren's books and devoured them and the picture began to emerge. Meanwhile at Nimbus I'd got the go ahead to record some raga musicians and also a disc by the London-based flamenco guitarist Paco Pena.
About the same time, through a local flamenco dance teacher, for whom I played guitar, I was introduced to Phil Slight. I remember that meeting so well. From just reading about all this Morón stuff I'd now come across someone who not only played guitar, and played it really well, but who'd been in Andalusia in the sixties, knew Pohren and the Morón flamencos, had lived the flamenco scene, had a huge collection of wonderful cassettes and great photos which he'd taken himself, was full of enthusiasm for Andalusia and most important of all became my friend and was happy to let me try and learn guitar from him. I remember Phil playing me a Paco del Gastor bulería track off a much copied cassette and my hair kind of stood on end, it was such a shock, the incredible way he played. I guess this was taped in Morón or Madrid. I played it over and over again. I was hooked. There was something magical contained in those juerga cassettes and I realised that Phil and I could try and do something similar together: record a flamenco gathering in Andalucía.
The Peña disc was now out and selling really well. Of course the label wanted another but I wanted to do something else too. So I put it to them that they ought to let me take some gear down to Andalusia and record gypsy flamenco on the spot. And to their great credit they said yes. The interesting thing is this connection between people who were in Morón in the sixties and who were hugely affected by what they witnessed, and people like me who were also afflicted a couple of decades later; the ripples are that powerful. There's a kind of lived in quality in the music on those juerga tapes, also a sense of adventure and probing that is absent on most of the commercial flamenco CDs I've come across - although I'd make an exception for that "Son de La Frontera" release which is a real treat. Those rough old tapes were certainly an inspiration to me and Phil.
Notes on recording Paco del Gastor's solo CD "Flamenco del la Frontera":
I remember the Paco solo recording as quite a relaxed affair, maybe because he didn't have the
hassle of fixing singers. He'd certainly put a lot of preparation into it. I know at one time he'd
thought of including an oud player. I'd no idea he was including bass and cajon until the
session. It was the first time I'd been round to his house and he was really friendly and
inviting; it was a change from the crafty fox persona I'd met before.
The session itself was a very professional yet emotionally charged affair. It was all straight to tape, no retakes, no
fluffs, quite extraordinary. The next day we all went round to Pepe's house - bass player - to listen to the tape. Like
most recordings it's only afterwards that you realise what extraordinary - or otherwise - stuff
you've got and this was obviously real gold. I know we would have liked more juerga style
atmosphere, like in those old recordings, but it's impractical and risky. Too controlled and it
sounds contrived, too loose and there's that risk that someone starts coughing or chattering
and you've lost the take.
Contact Robin Broadbank.