Piano Jondo translates to "deep-feeling piano" in the Spanish Andalusian dialect and this album certainly lives up to that title. Born and raised in Sevilla, Spain, Diego Amador is the younger brother of Raimundo and Rafael Amador, well known guitarists that fused flamenco and the blues to create a new style of music. They went on to record quite successfully under the name Pata Negra. While they made their mark with guitars, a young Diego fell in love with an old Hammond organ that his father brought home one day and began teaching himself to play flamenco music on it. Completely self-taught, he has developed into an amazing master of the instrument.
In addition to piano, Amador also contributes guitars, mandola, vocals and handclaps to this recording. He’s joined by Miguel Vargas on bass, Luis Amador on box and percussion and Joaquin Grilo, who adds dance and additional handclaps.
While this album was released by Milestone Records, a Fantasy Jazz label and home to such artists as Hank Crawford and Sonny Rollins, it’s not really a jazz album. This is a flamenco album through and through, interpreted in strict accordance with formal flamenco styles. However, I believe that it possesses a jazz spirit and that the music is played with a certain jazz sensibility. One song, "Vivan Los Gitanos!", even liberally quotes the melody to the jazz standard "Caravan".
I haven’t listened to very much flamenco music, but the thing that immediately struck me as so fascinating when I listened to this album was the synergy that is created between the piano and the guitar. The synchronicity and unity of mind they share is amazing, to the point that if I didn’t know any better I would think it was one person playing two instruments simultaneously.
This album features seven different flamenco forms: Solea, Taranta, Bulerias, Rondena, Seguiriya, Tanguillos and Por Tango. Each has it’s on set of rules and guidelines regarding what keys they can be played in and what kind of rhythmic accompaniment they are allowed, yet they still maintain an air of freedom about them. That these musicians can make such complex music sound so simple and carefree is a real testament to their mastery of the artform. I highly recommend this CD to jazz and flamenco music fans, alike.