Miguel Angel Cortés
Alula (www.alula.com)

It's not as if Miguel Angel Cortés, a celebrated flamenco guitarist and winner of the Paco de Lucía award, has anything to prove. He confidently subordinates showiness to sonorous composition, embraces instruments less often heard in the genre, and elaborates clear melodies. It is a recipe for a highly satisfying recording.

"De Corales" presents a series of calm tangos, consummately smooth spills of guitar notes alternating with piercing, nasal female vocals and a light flute. The vocals return near the end of "Sacais de Azabache," a set of bulerías accompanying some of Cortés' most spirited improvisation. On "Raquel," a slow, meditative introduction picks up speed with the entrance of cajón and palmas, Cortés' guitar emanating a restrained fire in the central improvisations. Beginning with polyrhythmic percussion, "Al Likindoy" develops into a deliberate tanquillos, gay verses alternating with a somewhat menacing central melodic figure. "Kuriachi" is an unexpected variation, a quick, dense rumba made jazzy by Carlos Vázquez' bass and Agustín Carrillo's saxophone; Cortés guitar carves out a surprisingly natural niche. "Patriarca," is a guitar solo; its slow, dramatic intro leads into a quiet, narrative meditation punctuated by floods of notes and occasional powerfully strummed exclamations.

Patriarca comes with brief but informative liner notes describing each track and offering a glossary of instruments and stylistic terms. - Jim Foley

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