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Inner Visions of Flamenco

Walter Kolosky only writes reviews of music that he highly recommends :-)
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are. Credit must go to "Walter Kolosky- Author of the books Power, Passion and Beauty and Follow Your Heart- John McLaughlin song by song.")

Inner Visions Of Flamenco            Raul Mannola                  SNFN-8436

Raul Mannola: guitar, electric Frame guitar
Raoul Bjorkenheim: electric guitar
Farina: vocals
Aylin Bayaz: dance
Pablo Martin Jones: drums and percussion
Rafael Jimenez “Falo”: vocals
Sergey Saprychev: tabla, zarp
Juan Carlos Aracil: flute
Leonardo Bianchi: guitar

Inner Visions of Flamenco
, features both acoustic and electric guitars to produce a unique flamenco amalgam. Performed by empathetic musicians, leader Raul Mannola's compositions belong in the flamenco tradition and standout from it at the same time.

The brilliant guitarist Raul Mannola is a somewhat controversial figure in the world of flamenco. Not everyone appreciates the liberties he may take with some of the music’s traditions. Adding electric guitar to the genre, as is done on some cuts on Inner Visions Of Flamenco, will do nothing to change that view. Though Mannola plays some electric, the main protagonist on the album is actually his partner, Raoul Bjorkenheim, who plays solid body electric guitar. There are a few musicians playing solid body guitar flamenco, the most noted being Jaco Abel. Still, it is very rare.

Two of the pieces are performed by The Flamenco-Rock-Jazz Project that Mannola co-leads with Bjorkenheim. (Yes, that is right- Raul and Raoul. BTW, someone should tell these guys that we call it jazz-rock, not rock-jazz ;-) Five tunes are played by Raul Mannola’s Sextet.

As with any successful fusion music, invention must be mingled with tradition. On the album’s opening cut, “Grande y Eterna,” Bjorkenheim adds a Santana-like blues feeling to the Granainas, which is sort of a free-form flamenco popularized in the Granada region of Southern Spain.

The rhythmic foot sounds of dancer Aylin Bayaz play a prominent role in the album’s other most overt fusion number, “Ese Gitano Bueno.” In traditional flamenco, the dancer is every bit as integral to authenticity as a classical guitar.

Mannola is a huge admirer of John McLaughlin’s Indo-jazz band Shakti. There is a current theory that much of the history of flamenco music can be traced back to India. A tune such as the transcendent “Nenufar” provides plenty of evidence. (As does the fact there is a table player in the band!) Mannola does sound like Shakti-era McLaughlin in the opening section. In fact, if this were Indian music, his solo introduction would be known as an alap. McLaughlin was famous for using a scalloped fretboard on his guitar to achieve great bends. Mannola has no such scallops and yet it seems his bends go just as far. String-stretching aside, it is the feeling and depth of emotion that Mannola obtains which is the most impressive element.

Both the fusion flamenco and more traditional flamenco heard on Inner Visions of Flamenco are quite impressive. The two guitarists and the two bands are superb. It would be blasphemous, I know, to suggest that I enjoyed this music just as much as any of Paco de Lucia’s Quintets, but I did.

It is no surprise that Mannola’s next project is scheduled to be flamenco interpretations of the music of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The band will be fittingly called Mahavishnu Flamenco.