About the CD "Flamenco Cat", 2008 By Chus Alonso As a composer, the power of music to bring cultures together has always been of interest to me. In a highly interconnected world -- where lack of understanding between people of different cultural backgrounds often gives rise to conflict -- composers, I believe, have an important role to play in building bridges between traditions, cultures, sensitivities, and aesthetics. I'm also convinced that building such musical bridges is a demanding task -- one that should only be approached with great knowledge of, and respect for, each of the cultures involved. I grew up in Spain and moved to California in my mid twenties. Having one foot in southern Europe and the other in the Americas, I'm passionate about exploring the historical ties connecting Spain's flamenco and folkloric music with the musical traditions of Cuba and Latin America. In 1992, I founded Potaje, an ensemble that seeks to foster this transatlantic cultural exchange -- building bridges between flamenco and genres such as Latin, jazz, and contemporary music. In it's first decade, Potaje focused on creating and performing new music that connected flamenco to Latin music -- exploring the fertile, centuries-long musical exchange between Spain and Latin America. In composing for the ensemble, I sought to create a body of work that, though new, was firmly rooted in flamenco and Latin musical traditions. Potaje's original instrumentation included guitar, flute, violin, bass, and percussion, with the occasional addition of flamenco and Cuban folkloric guest dancers. Using these instruments and elements, I sought to create a sound that mixed flamenco guitar with the grooves and timbre of the Cuban charanga ensemble. Potaje collaborated with flamenco and Latin artists of the highest caliber and showcased our new sound in a CD entitled "Charanga Flamenca." A new chapter opened for Potaje about six years ago, when I became interested in composing for piano in flamenco styles and adding the piano to Potaje's instrumentation. Since traditional flamenco is mostly played on guitar, my challenge, in part, was to develop piano techniques that imitate both flamenco gestures and the percussive sounds of the guitar. We collaborated closely with pianist Paula Dreyer, who worked on assimilating the new concepts and techniques and to offer feedback on pianistic execution of the music. New to flamenco but with a strong classical background, great sensitivity, and solid sound, she spent several years familiarizing herself in this manner with the flamenco "grooves." Meanwhile, I experimented with different ways to use the keyboard. The music matured with the positive feedback of live audiences in Spain, Portugal, and California. "Flamenco Cat" is the product of this process. The CD includes, in addition to the piano, Mark Taylor's sophisticated and tasteful guitar, the grooving violin of Tregar Otton, the strong bass of Steve Senft-Herrera, and enchanting percussion by Brian Rice and Sage Baggott. It also features a number of talented guest artists: virtuoso percussionist Omar Ledezma, the versatile cellist Monica Scott, and members of San Francisco's Community Music Center Orchestra. And yes, I play flute and a few other instruments.
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