Calaita Flamenco Son greet the international market with a vibrant debut release that explores a range of flamenco music. The Manchester-based group started out as a trio before expanding into a quintet, adding a vocalist and a woodwind player along the way. The wisdom behind this decision is easy to hear on their self-titled CD. Guitarists Chico Pere and Glenn Sharp lead the way, composing most of the tracks on the album, while Leo Paredes holds the rhythm together on cajón. Recent additions Diana Castro and Matt Nickson support the band with vocals and flute/saxophone respectively. Castro’s clear voice melds well with lead vocalist Pere’s expressive, weathered singing and Nickson’s woodwinds add a nice layer to the ensemble’s guitar-driven sound. Gavin Barras adds fretless electric bass guitar to a couple of tracks, revealing a jazz undercurrent sitting below the surface throughout much of Calaita Flamenco Son.
Chico Pere and company deliver authentic, passionate flamenco music with some outside influences, but this is by no means a crossover record. The jazz element, among others, is subtle and used effectively to broaden the group’s palette. Palos, seguiriyas, rumbas and bulerías sit alongside alegrías, tangos, guajiras, and colombianas. The enthusiastic atmosphere of the recording, full of vocal encouragement, hand clapping and hearty guitar strumming, lends this disc a natural warmth that sometimes gets lost in a studio setting.
Right from the start, “Muy Ocupada” sets the tone for the album. Pere hails from a family of flamenco singers and his mature, yet controlled voice is the perfect vehicle for the group. The piece ebbs and flows, rapidly shifting dynamics. The dual guitars are prominently featured, but never become overbearing. The backing vocals, cajón, saxophone and fretless bass all come and go, adding lots of texture throughout. “Un Mensajito” is a jazz-inflected tango driven by Pere and Castro’s terrific vocal harmony and Nickson’s tenor saxophone.
While this is an ensemble record, it’s nice to hear Pere sing with solo guitar on “Quedate Con Tus Anillos,” a moving seguiriya that finds the vocalist hitting top form. “En El Puente” is another stripped down, heartfelt piece with a haunting sound and tapped guitar percussion. “Rumba Del Siete” starts slow and soulful before building with intensity, giving Diana Castro a chance to sing some lead.
Calaita Flamenco Son is a rewarding record that signals a great start for the band. Enjoyable for traditional and contemporary flamenco fans alike.
Originally published in RootsWorld Magazine.