Originally published in 2018
By Kelcey Alonzo
Flamenco is one of the most beautiful and challenging forms of music. For your standard run-of-the-mill flamenco guitarist, there are no amps, no pedals, no special effects—your tone results from fingernails, flesh, and angle of attack on the string. If you listen to Antonio Rey’s New album “Dos Partes De Mi” you will find yourself immersed in the sonic textures of the overall mix. But better yet, you will experience a new generation player playing on the same level as some of his predecessors (Paco De Lucia, Tomatito, and Gerardo Nuñez). Yet, his technique and compositions are something I don’t quite think we’ve experienced before. His guitar can purr or growl. His compositions will make you shut up and listen. Overall, Antonio Rey is hard at work making a name for himself in the world of Flamenco, and once you listen to his new record, you will hear what I’m talking about.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Antonio to discuss his new record, his collaboration with Richard Bona, and of course, Guitars.
Guitar Connoisseur: Thank you for talking to us. I want to preface my questions by first asking you to describe what Flamenco is in your own words?
Antonio Rey: Flamenco for me is, it means my life, my day to day, my worries, my stories, my experiences, my way of living day by day, that’s Flamenco for me.
GC: You come from a musical family, your father Tony Rey is a musician, your sister is a well-respected singer. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and how music impacted your life?
AR: Yes, my father is a singer and guitarist, who taught me, Tony Rey, and my mother is a dancer, my grandfather, my sister, are also dancers … in short, music has always been the central theme at home since I was young. Typically, the son wants to be what his father is, and because he played in the tablaos (Flamenco Venues), my father used to show me exercises for different techniques. Playing in the tablao at night was especially helpful in developing a sense of flamenco singing and dancing.
GC: So, you start playing guitar at the age of 10, and by 18, Antonio Canales is calling for you. I would imagine this is no easy feat. What was your practice routine like during those years, and who were some of your instructors?
AR: At 18, I came to Madrid because I was in Japan before Mexico and Madrid, and I started playing with professionals like Antonio Canales, Cristóbal Reyes, in mythical and very important tablaos where great artists have performed. That’s when I began to take it very seriously—having to compose music for shows like the company of the New Spanish Ballet, Miguel Ángel Rojo, and Cano Rodríguez. I did plays like Romeo and Juliet, Tierra, too many to mention. It was imperative in my career to be in Madrid.
GC: I remember visiting Málaga in 2006 and thinking gypsies at the airport would greet me. As it turns out, I found a lack of Flamenco in the small cafes. The same thing that happened when I visited Madrid. Was I just in the wrong places, or is Flamenco slowly dying and being replaced by pop music?
AR: Flamenco is not disappearing! What happens is that in Spain, there is so much Flamenco that what comes from outside is more attractive. The same thing happens in the whole world, but it is not disappearing. There are many tablaos, especially in Madrid and Barcelona. The capitals are: First Madrid, then Barcelona and Seville too, but places like Málaga, Jaén, Almería, Huelva are more touristy cities, so they don’t pay so much attention to Flamenco, that’s why when you were there, there was not so much Flamenco, but no, we are not becoming extinct, thank God.
GC: Let’s talk guitars for a moment. What are you playing these days?
AR: I play a Manuel Reyes guitar that the Maestro Vicente Amigo gave me. It is one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve received in my life. It is a cypress guitar with a German Spruce top and a very flamenco-sounding guitar. The truth is, it’s a jewel.
GC: How many guitars do you take on tour?
AR: On tour, I usually go with my Reyes, and here in the studio, when I record, I also record with the same Reyes Blanca. I do not usually take two or four guitars on tour.
GC: Had you worked with Maestro Gerardo Nuñez prior to him producing your first album “A Través De Ti”?
AR: No, I did not work with Gerardo before! After the album, we made “A Través De Ti” yes, he was the producer. I met him when he was on a jury in a contest here in Jerez de la Frontera, which is the prize of La Peña and Los Cernícalos, at the Bella Marta theater, where I met the Maestro.
GC: What kind of influence did he (Gerardo Nuñez) have on you as a composer and guitarist?
AR: I discovered his music when I was ten years old when my father played the records; “El Gallo Azul” and “Jucal” great works that marked me as a child of Gerardo, and then I was lucky, as I said before, to meet him in the contest and he offered me the opportunity to record in his studio “A Través De Ti” that he produced.
GC: Your new album “Dos Partes de mi” is somewhat of a departure from your first album “A Través De Ti” in the sense that the compositions are deeply rooted in Flamenco as opposed to your first album, which has more of a flamenco/Jazz sound. What influence did Maestro Gerardo Nuñez have as a producer in terms of the sound of your first album?
AR: Well, to tell you the truth, not much. He would come into the studio alone to review what we did, Gerardo gave me absolute creative freedom to do what came out of my heart, and that was that. He did not influence much in the composition; he would assure me that everything was fine, that it sounded good, that the arrangements were in order, that there were no technical or tuning issues or mistakes; the compositions were my criteria.
GC: I love this new record! It sounds fresh while still giving flamenco lovers the all-to-familiar flamenco flavor they desire. What was your compositional approach for this new album?
AR: Thank you very much. Well, this new album, “Dos Partes De Mi,” is a bit about showing the two parts that I have inside and that I identify with, the first being flamenco, and the other being universal music that I love as well, lots of genres. When it comes to thinking about how the album will sound, you do not know it until you finish it. I mean, when I start to compose, I start looking for the music, and then, there’s the bulería “Dos Partes de mí,” I’m now looking for a soleá that has nothing to do with the previous piece and so on. I do not have a vision of the finished album, I’m composing in my house, in my kitchen, late at night, and when all the pieces fit together, I say, “This is the sound and focus of this album.
GC: How did the collaboration with Richard Bona come about?
AR: As it turns out, Maestro Richards manager who lives here in Spain, is a friend of mine, and he told me that there was a Cameroonian who was a phenomenon of jazz, who wanted to do a project with Flamenco and they called for me for this collaboration.
When I met him and started playing together, I discovered my hero, apart from Paco de Lucia, Richard Bona, pegged me as an equal musically. I was fascinated by how a person can release as much music as he can improvise, play in different tunings, his range as a singer, different rhythms, he’s a great teacher, a genius in my opinion. Then the idea of playing on his new record, came up, which is going to be called “Cameroon of the border” so I said to him: “Hey well while this CD comes out why don’t you play with me on this bulería (“Dos Partes De Mi”) and the Maestro gave me a gift, by agreeing to collaborate, I do not know how to thank him.
GC: What are some of the musical nuances that Richard brought to the title track? And how do you think his playing impacted the overall sound?
AR: I’m tired of listening to myself, and when Richard sings, it’s incredible. The color of the song when he opens his mouth and starts singing, where you forget everything because he has an angelic voice, it’s as if the angels of heaven are going down to sing, at least for me anyway. And then his bass playing, Richard is one of the greatest musicians we have on Earth. I also want to add the percussion playing was on that track was also Richard. He is a super complete musician, he plays everything and plays everything well. So to answer your question, What he has most influenced in this tune is the low percussion and voice.
GC: Who are some of the artists you would like to work with, in the future?
AR: It is difficult to choose just one because there are many who I admire … very many. I was lucky to be with Paco de Lucia and also to play with maestro Vicente Amigo, I would have liked Camarón, but unfortunately, he’s no longer with us, but there are many who are alive that I would like, like, Sting or Pat Metheny.
GC: What advice would you give to up and coming musicians who would like a career in music
AR: (Laughs) It isn’t that easy for one to give advice when one is still learning! But what I have learned in these years is to know what not to do, for example, not to imitate, not believe that your music is worth nothing, not believe that you will not arrive, I mean the opposite; trust in yourself, work hard and dream very hard.
GC: Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2018 and 2019?
Well for 2018 and 2019 we have great adventures with my manager Debora de Macande and Manuel, we have now the Jerez festival that is one of the most important festivals in Flamenco in Spain, then also the Flamenco Biennial in Spain. Lope de Vega theater, the Biennial that has been one of the most important festivals like Jerez for many years, then at the Suma Flamenca a very important festival in Madrid, then the Palau de la Música in Barcelona which is one of the theaters more important and an honor to play there, then this year I’m going on tour in June to Mexico to play at festivals like Monterrey, Saltillo, Querétaro, Durango, Mérida and from there we go to the United States, to San Francisco. It is the first time that I go with my music to the United States and then we have a tour in Japan in October and if my memory serves me right, next year projects such as the Fine Arts of the Federal Institute and the year after that start preparing the new projects.
GC: Antonio, I can’t tell you what an honor it was to speak to you, and I would like to thank you for your time. Good luck with the new record, and have fun on the road.
AR: Well, thank you very much, and it was a pleasure for me as well.