Seldom does a collision of cultures involving the Andalusian, and the Indian come together in a popular vein involving improvisatory flights as in jazz hang so perfectly together as it does on one that we are delighted by with the Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Fusion. The music of this ensemble displays the musicians’ – led by the intrepid guitarist Miguel Espinoza and featuring the legendary harmonica player Howard Levy – innate ability to convey, with memorable eloquence, a series of short, dramatic narratives. Such musical skills, flawless reading and idiomatic expression can only be born, not made, and artistically honed by inspiration and grueling practice.
Albums such as this magnificent one – Living in a Daydream – are becoming more frequently produced and listened to. This kind of artistic exchange spanning continents – and sometimes small, unknown islands in the middle of the oceans – is not hew to us. But artists usually had difficulty conveying the veracity of unknown cultures that so fascinated them. While it is true that at one time such cultural cross-pollination was common. 7th and 8th century Europe capped by the glories of Alhambra was one such example of world history when the sharing of knowledge and culture was sought after – indeed encouraged – by none other than the Umayyad Caliphate of Syria, whose influence spread all over Europe and may have ignited what we know as the duende of flamenco music.
Miguel Espinoza has added essential rhythmic elements of Hindustani music to the flamenco music – which forms the essence of his artistic conception. It also helps [enormously] that all the performers are at the top of their communicative powers. The core trio of the cellist Dianne Betkowski and bassist Randy Hoepker – not to mention the others featuring Mr Levy as well as the percussionists Nabin Shreshta and Andy Skellenger [both fine tabalchis], Mario Moreno – make light work of the technical challenges of Mr Espinoza’s music. Together they produce a tight and sweet unity of purpose, aided by a close recorded balance. All this artistic buy-in brings out the full range of artistic invention and emotion to the repertoire on this disc.
One is hard-pressed to single any one chart for special mention as the entire album celebrates the prismatic nature of this music. Melodies, harmonies and – especially – rhythmic invention has refreshed the value of all this music with a breathlessly joyful elán. This is a significant addition to the canon of music, the importance of which cannot be recommended too highly.
Music – 1: Naga Yaté; 2: Bubble; 3: Division; 4: Zelda the Caterpillar; 5: Sunrise; 6: Falling Snow; 7: Journey Home; 8: The Storm.
Musicians – Miguel Espinoza: guitar and palmas; Howard Levy: harmonica and piano [1, 2, 5, 8]; Dianne Betkowski: cello; Randy Hoepker: bass; Andy Skellenger: tabla, cajón and vocals; Mario Moreno: congas, timbales and percussion [2, 8]; Linda Richardson: castanets ; Nabin Shreshta: tabla and vocals .
Released – 2023
Label – Independent
Runtime – 36:24