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Comparisons to jazz’s Pat Metheny abound. Heard also are the influences of flamenco’s Paco de Lucia. But Spain’s Vicente Amigo is his own artist. His newest album, Ciudad de Las Ideas (City of Ideas), melds the jazz and flamenco of his guitarist models, and its fluid lines allow displays of emotional expression and flights of passion Metheny and de Lucia would themselves seek. Yet, the thirtysomething guitarist forgoes the cloying sentiment that has felled fusion artists before him, leaning instead on the passion and heart that sometimes gets lost in the technique of the best flamenco virtuosi.
“I love flamenco music as a foundation because it allows me to tell a story in a very different, nonlinear fashion,” Amigo says in his official RCA Victor biography. “The organization of that tale is less important than the feeling of it.... It’s just a matter of following my soul when I find something good to express in the song.”
Born and raised in Guadalcanal (Spain, not the Pacific), Amigo first began expressing himself musically at age eight, when he was given his first guitar. What followed would make a decent TV movie: lessons with flamenco great Merengue de Córdoba touring and recording with flamenco singer El Pele, releasing Poeta de Esquina Blandas in 1988 to critical and popular acclaim. The album won the pair first prize at the International Flamenco Guitar competition, an impressive feat for a man barely 21 years old. Amigo wouldn’t release a solo record until 1991’s De Mi Corazon al Aire, but by then he was well-established as flamenco’s modern-day ambassador, having shared international stages with the likes of Metheny, Milton Nascimento and Bob Dylan, and being named Best International Flamenco Guitarist by Guitar Player magazine.
Today, Amigo is known as the Sultan of Duende and is a sought-after collaborator. He has played with Stanley Jordan and flamenco great de Lucia (with whom he recorded an homage to Metheny, “Querido Metheny,” on Vivencias Imaginadas, his second solo album). He displayed his maturing compositional talents on his third collection, 1997’s Poeta, a work for solo guitar and orchestra based on a poem by Rafael Alberti that he had premiered five years earlier with the Orquesta de Córdoba. The album garnered Amigo his first Spanish Grammy.
Released in Europe in 2000, Ciudad de Las Ideas got the attention of the music establishment in the United States, and Amigo earned a coveted Latin Grammy statuette la