Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jorge Pardo is classified in two ways: jazz musician and flamenco musician.

Leaning toward one or other style was also a process that just happened with time. "Like I said before I'm a musician by vocation. And that means I'm passionate about music. In that respect nothing's changed since I was a kid. I used to like anything so long as the sound captivated my imagination - I didn't care if it was the sound of a djembe hand drum or a guitar played by Niño Ricardo, or a jazz band, or a zarzuela Spanish operetta. Any music that caught my attention was good." The contacts he made at the conservatoire were decisive in that respect. "Out of my college friends one was in a rock group, another in a folk band, which was the thing in those days, there was a street musician... and all music students." But more decisive still was an ad he found in a classified section. "Jazz occupied the tiniest portion of this environment, but I found an ad in the newspaper which said 'If you like jazz come to the auditorium at the School of Industrial Engineering', which is in the center of Madrid." So they went along: "I went one day with Ángel Carrero and Santi el Pelucas, and sure enough there was a group of students - who in those days were the ones making that type of music - and I introduced myself, that's how I got into jazz".

When he started listening to a few albums, he saw "a whole world opening up before him, this was the freedom an artist needs to be creative, to do things, you could feel an atmosphere of transgression that was so present in those days, the last years of Franco's dictatorship. It's not that I'd really ever been mixed up in politics, but in those days it didn't matter if you were into politics or not, there was a feeling of social turmoil, mostly among the youth, who were searching for different ways of going against the norm." Hence his "approach to music smacks of someone who's come out of a music school". Inevitably, "the social conditions present in Spain back then had a marked impact on both my personality and my approach to music."

His influences at that time were, as they always have been, in all shapes and sizes: "I used to listen to King Crimson and I listened to Coltrane and to Camarón and Paco [de Lucía] in those days. And I listened to classical music, I also liked dance - I used to go to shows, flamenco and other genres too... In my student days I was into all kinds of things, I saw the rock groups that came and played like Soft Machine... I can't recall all of it, but I listened to practically everything that was around".

And what about flamenco? "I was a fan of flamenco, and at the outset I'd listen to Paco and Camarón's records, and Lole y Manuel, Manuel Gerena, Juan Villar, Lebrijano, Enrique de Melchor, Sorderita... anything that was close to hand in the capital of Spain at the time." He could never have imagined back then "that one day I'd be playing flamenco on an instrument. And that came about some years later at one of those meetings with Paco", when the guitarist from Algeciras proposed that Dolores come to a recording session and collaborate with him on something for 'La danza del fuego' on a tribute album to Manuel de Falla. "We went to the studio and just did our thing, and without a doubt the result was the basis - in terms of the sound - of what has since been the Paco de Lucía septet."

So Jorge Pardo is classified in two ways: jazz musician and flamenco musician. "I have feelings pulling me in both directions, it's like asking who you love more, your mom or your dad." Even so, there are factors that tip the scales: "Right now I feel closer to flamenco. Flamenco's the framework within which I express myself, the people I play with are flamenco, the result is flamenco, it's home for me. I'm well aware that I'm in that home environment, but within that environment I'm one of the oddballs." Jorge Pardo's perspectives go beyond duality though: "I'll keep adding ethnic influences and different ideas, like my links with the world of Brazilian music, I just can't help it, or like my links with music from the Maghreb, I can't help that either. There are people there I love, who mean a lot to me and whose music is profoundly important, though maybe not as much as flamenco or jazz... And let's not forget my love of Bach."

And within flamenco circles, have you ever been asked where you sprang from? "And where I was born, and whose son I was... at the outset, since I was a little unusual and the surname Pardo doesn't come up very often in the world of flamenco, they associated me with a clan of guitarists - the Pardo family, from Madrid, who are excellent artists. 'Are you something to do with los Pardo?' they'd ask". But this probing has never made him feel uncomfortable. "Inside the world of flamenco, bearing in mind that it's a little dog-eat-dog like the rest of the world, the people are amazing. They're people with a great sense of humor and, believe it or not, there's a great feeling of solidarity among them, within that family they share a very simple and very human set of values. I'm the oddball, but that's something I say myself, a personal reflection, it's not that anyone's ever made any comment to me... even though you might feel it sometimes."

Maybe any rejection is more likely to come from neighbors... "Well I guess that for a lot of those people, who live in their own little world, you don't even cross their mind, not even while they're dreaming... unless they're having a nightmare perhaps." But Jorge Pardo shows no bitterness towards anyone in this respect "In my opinion those people are also doing their thing, and their mission, while it doesn't interest me, is a positive one: they're keeping a flame burning, keeping an art form alive, the way they know best." And he adds that "the beautiful thing about art is that everyone says what they think and that's it. Further analysis starts to get a little silly... everyone should say what they feel and what they think. And if one person says, 'well I don't like that guy', then that's fine too, so long as it's said with due respect."

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