This piece, which is a duet featuring my brother Adrian (violin), is dedicated to one particular Knight, who is one of my greatest friends and mentors. In addition to actually being a member of the Knights Templar, a secret order that was at its peak during the Middle Ages and later served as the inspiration for organizations such as the Freemasons, this person is also a Knight of the Flamenco Roundtable. Not only is he an amazing musician, but as a personality, he is truly ‘timeless’. Those of you who know me personally have probably already figured out who I’m talking about.
El Payo Humberto, an accomplished flamenco guitarist hailing from the Netherlands, lived in Minnesota for several years. During his time here, he was my musical and life mentor – an incredible privilege – where our lessons focused equally on an exploration of traditional flamenco, philosophy, politics, and humor. El Payo introduced me to Nino Ricardo, an important figure in the sphere of traditional flamenco and one of Humberto’s mentors when he studied in Spain during the 60s and 70s. He also reinforced my interests in existential philosophy and analytical psychology; many a lesson were spent discussing Carl Jung, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Gerard Reve, and many others…
The Knights Templar is not flamenco, strictly speaking, but rather an amalgamation of influences – a sort of jazz-inspired Renaissance/baroque composition, somewhat in the vein of the improvised chamber music of Rolf Lislevand and Jordi Savall, but also with a distinctly flamenco flavor. I wrote the main theme (what you hear in the sample) in April 2012, with the entire piece coming together in the subsequent months. It was initially a solo piece, however, but an impromptu jam session during which Adrian came up with a second voice changed that…
Upon hearing the final version of the piece, Humberto’s reaction: “¡Muy bien! The return of the Knights Templars.”
I wrote this piece in summer 2011, dedicating it to the Brazilian guitarist Yamandu Costa. I discovered Yamandu’s music a few years prior, and he has been a huge influence ever since I first heard him play. Not only is he a brilliant composer, arranger, and interpreter of Brazilian music (and beyond), his technique ranks as one of the best in the world. Many of his pieces are tour-de-forces, featuring dizzying, tastefully executed passages and harmonic progressions that firmly cement him as one of the most influential modern Brazilian guitarists. His approach to the guitar is informed most immediately by his predecessor, the Brazilian guitarist Raphael Rabello, who passed away at the young age of 32 but left an incredible legacy of flamenco-inspired, yet distinctly Brazilian arrangements and compositions with a style all his own. Although it is difficult to compare such proficient guitarists, it can be said that Yamandu has gone a few steps further in his approach, engaging in a variety of unique musical contexts such as a jazz trio framework and duets with accordion (Dominguinhos) and mandolin (Hamilton de Holanda). However, Last Dance was inspired most by Yamandu’s solo work, particularly the pieces on his Mafuá album (released in 2008).
Last Dance begins with an ad libitum introduction (featuring my attempt at percussion!) to set the tone of the piece – and of the album as a while – Last Dance jumps right into the samba rhythm, which serves as a segue into a brief solo/improv section with a flamenco-inspired rhythmic accompaniment. The subsequent call-and-response chords and passages transition into the second part (the main theme), which I overdubbed with a second guitar part (random note: the overdub was recorded a year after the original track!). The piece concludes with a recapitulation of the first part that ends on an unexpectedly dissonant chord – a Yamandu trademark.
Also, it turns out that living in Minnesota isn’t all bad (although the recent weather forecasts might lead you to believe otherwise). We have a very active music community that attracts many world-class musicians. Two years ago, a very special musician performed here...
A little less than a year after writing Last Dance, I was able to perform it for Yamandu… luckily, he liked it!