Taking it ‘Slow’: Flamenco guitarist Ottmar Liebert brings his latest music to Avalon
The gifted, elegant and world-renowned guitarist Ottmar Liebert will be massaging his guitar at the Avalon Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 30, accompanied by his band Luna Negra.
Liebert, who was last in the Grand Valley in August 2015 for a sell-out concert in the Colorado National Monument, is on tour to celebrate the release of his most recent album, “Slow,” and to spend some time with his fans.
Liebert said he and Luna Negra like to make the concert experience special for attendees, so he lets his music evolve and revolve during live shows, allowing musical intuition to take over rather than paying strict adherence to album cuts.
“All the songs — I think of them as little plants, little trees that grow in different directions,” Liebert said during a phone interview earlier in September. “We add new limbs and they change quite a bit over time.”
Concert-goers can expect to hear a couple songs from “Slow” and his second-to-latest album, a Bob Marley-inspired “Waiting N Swan,” as well as fan favorites dating back to the beginning of his musical stardom, 27 years ago.
“Slow” is an aptly titled album that Liebert recorded solo, just him and his guitar without accompaniment.
“Slow” was his attempt to “whisper softly” against the “state of constant alarm” people are put in by the pings and alerts of technology, he said on his website, ottmarliebert.com.
The music is meditative and entrancing while still exhibiting the virtuosic, trilling arpeggios and picados of Liebert’s classic Spanish guitar style.
Self-described as “nouveau flamenco,” Liebert’s particular sound developed upon his arrival in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1986, when he was in his late 20s, he said.
Although he began playing classical guitar at the age of 12, Liebert wanted to play something “loud” as a teenager, he said.
“I always thought I’d play electric guitar,” Liebert said.
But when Liebert moved to Santa Fe, he studied for two or three years with a flamenco guitarist, and his artistry bloomed in that direction.
His first album, called “Nuevo Flamenco” and released in 1990, jetted Liebert and his sound into the top of the charts.
“Nuevo Flamenco” became one of the best-selling guitar albums of all time, going platinum in U.S. markets and diamond, meaning over 10 million copies sold, in Latin markets. Liebert has had 10 other albums go platinum in Latin markets since then and has released three gold albums in the United States.
It is the artistry behind flamenco guitar that pulls him toward the Spanish-rooted style, Liebert said.
Flamenco musicians expertly use all five fingers on their plucking hand to individually strike the guitar strings rather than strumming across the row of strings with a pick.
Because of this five-fingered plucking, “there are things you can do with the flamenco techniques that you can’t do any other way,” Liebert said.
Yet while using flamenco techniques, Liebert amalgamates the music of the world into many of his albums.
He said he can detect some of his German or Hungarian roots — a native of Germany, Liebert has German and Hungarian ancestry — in his work’s more “melancholy” moments.
He also has created albums in the past using Japanese, American blues, rhumba, African and Mexican influences, among others.
But this is only natural, Liebert said: All music is under the influence of something else. Even flamenco, which is usually thought of as the most Spanish of Spanish music, has Arabian themes at its roots.
The cross-cultural nature of music is what makes it fun and interesting and innovative, Liebert said, comparing it to fusion cuisine. Combinations such as Korean-style banh mi tacos and Thai chicken pizza delight the senses by presenting old-school flavors in new-school arrangements.
“As a culture, we learn the fastest when we combine the ideas of other cultures,” Liebert said, summarizing the thought that multiculturalism can push art and ideas forward. “Things can grow faster when we mix them up.”
It naturally follows, then, that Liebert, who already is thinking about his next album, imagines it likely will combine several different musical approaches rather than being a more consistent-sounding collection, like “Slow” and “Waiting N Swan.”
Liebert has an incredible rate of production, often releasing two or more albums per year written and produced by himself. Adele, by comparison, has released just three albums across nearly a decade.
Those albums come from a drive to see the ideas in his head made manifest, Liebert said.
“There are so many things to try and experiment with, and I’m just having a good time with that,” he said.