GSP Recordings, 1020, 1999
artist website

Sonifolk S.A/Lyricon, 2113, 1997
artist website
Adam del Monte -- presently living in California where he teaches and performs with his wife and Flamenco dancer Laila -- is that all-too-rare guitarist who's equally confident and trained in Classical and Flamenco styles. He studied the former at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester England, the latter in Spain's famous Sacromonte caves of Granada under the tutelage of his father Dino and other Gypsy players.

Flamenco greats Enrique Morente and Pepe Habichuela have called his playing one "of mature musicianship and great timing", "a master guitarist" of "great sensitivity and imagination". As a composer, he's also entering film scoring. His most recent credit includes the dramatic feature One Clean Move, directed by D.W. Brown and starring Gary Busey and Harry Hamlin.

With a robust earthy tone and fleet yet thick-fingered style of powerful deliberation for each note that recalls that of Santa Fe flamenco demon "Chuscales", Ezordio concentrates on Piazzolla, J.S. Bach and Albéniz but adds two original compositions that blend Classical Spanish guitar elements with the dissonant edginess and moody chromatism of Flamenco.

Very poetic yet intensely muscular, with great dynamic range and liberal suspensions of time, del Monte's Astor Piazzolla is a thing of sweltering longing performed on a sonorous Pedro de Miguel guitar. For his Bach "Partita in B-minor" (transcribed from the solo violin score) he trades the latter for a leaner, more Baroque sounding Bob Mattingly.

His Bach eschews mechanical rigidity whereby certain performers turn J.S. into precision sewing machines following programmed patterns like robots. Del Monte's Bach breathes in free air. The intertwined counterpoint themes communicate with each other - distinct tendrils around a common stock, not impossibly dense foliage obscuring details. Subtle rubatos transform the mathematical architecture of the solid house that Bach built into something faintly billowing. It's more like a tent pitched outdoors. Del Monte plays as though for the birds and trees perched on a rock himself, not on a stiff-backed chair for an overdressed concert hall audience.

For his Albéniz transcriptions, he returns to his de Miguel guitar but elicits a slimmer, more silvery timbre than for his Piazzolla. He's clearly possessed of a rather fine chameleon touch that recalls the legendary Julian Bream and here, with its tenderness of delivery, suggests a romantic moonlit atmosphere by the banks of a slow-moving river.

On Viaje a un nuevo mundo, the flavor changes instantly to something wilder, more dangerous, metallic arpeggios and violent rasgueados driven by urgency and rhythmic tension. The opening tangos is an emotional scorcher, dedicated to his wife and propelled onwards by Rubén Dantas' frenetic cajon trills and lightning-fast beats laying down blistering rolls of fancy high-heeled footwork as an impassioned taconeo dancer would on wooden floors.

The following soleá, alegría and bulería all exhibit great compositional finesse and distinct individuality, daring unexpected turns down roads less traveled. "Blue Rumba" is an uptempo Latin-flavored Ketama-esque romp that introduces saxophone, bass and piano and adds Paul Tchunga on percussion. It's a flawlessly executed rockin' crossover between Flamenco, Jazz and Salsa as previously explored by Gerardo Nuñez on "Calima" or Juan Manual Cañizares on his "Noches de Imán y Luna" . It'd be guaranteed instant airplay if the CD was sent to the right station programmers.

The closing seguiriya "Llantos de la Juderia" opens with a hair-raising cante jondo cadenza by Miguel de Malaga and introduces a more traditional element into Adam's otherwise highly contemporary Flamenco. It shows him to be an exceptionally versatile and adaptable artist who responds with ease to the diverse influences his musical upbringing has planted into his psyche. He's also preternaturally fluent in the intricate science of compas, the rhythmic complexity of Flamenco that instantly separates talented and sympathetic outsiders from authentic insiders.

Adam del Monte clearly lives in the inner circle. US connoisseurs are lucky to have such a gifted guitarist in residence. I first discovered del Monte on Omar Faruk Tekbilek's Sufi-fusion "One Truth" release. I felt compelled to punch his name into a search engine and voilà - an e-mail and small check later, two albums that couldn't be more different from each other. Still, they exhibit the same high standards of innovative musicianship and so happen to sport the same artist donning two very different alter egos. Both are must-haves for all lovers of the acoustic Spanish guitar.