Double-platinum flamenco guitarist Ottmar Liebert draws upon a lot of sources for inspiration, though his sound is entirely his own. Listening to a track like “Night Exhales” or “Le Café,” there’s almost a rock-inspired force embedded within the manic flamenco vibe. It’s really something special.
With Ottmar and his band Luna Negra performing at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 15, those in attendance will be getting a taste of Liebert’s latest album Dune, which continues the artist’s flamenco-inspired musical journey by incorporating Algerian-inspired folk music. I chatted a bit with Liebert about his career and his upcoming performance. I’m always curious what it is that inspires a musician to pick up their chosen instrument.
“Well, I picked up the guitar when I was 11, so that’s a fair amount of time ago. I can’t tell you the exact reasons, but my family didn’t have a TV at home. Every weekend, we’d visit my grandparents and there was a show called Beat Club and I think I really liked a lot of the electric guitar stuff. Somehow, my 11-year old mind developed this notion of playing classical guitar, even though I had never heard classical guitar. I figured that was a nice stepping-stone to playing electric guitar. I concentrated on playing classical guitar for a few years and around 16 or so, I bought an electric guitar. At the time, I think my favorite guitar player was Carlos Santana,” Liebert says, adding “I went to a concert and it was the opening group, whom none of my friends and I had heard of, which absolutely blew us away.
That band was Earth, Wind And Fire. Can you imagine? You’ve never heard anything like that before, all the lights go out, a voice booms over the microphone and welcomes Earth, Wind And Fire to the stage and on ‘fire,’ all the flashpots go off and they’re running around the stage? We’d never seen anything like it. They had to have the opening band do two encores. It was the most amazing experience.”
Liebert toured with Santana back in 1996 and brought up his childhood memory to the legendary guitarist. “He had been on a two-year tour, he had arrived straight from Japan, but towards the end of his show, three or four guys from Earth, Wind And Fire joined his band and Carlos [Santana] found extra energy and just played unbelievable,” Liebert said. “Later on, I got into Wah Wah Watson, who played on ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone,’ very funky. Somewhere along that time, I also found a solo flamenco guitar recording in the bargain bin of a supermarket. Those two elements, funk and flamenco, early on, meshed and mixed in my mind.,” said Liebert.
“Flamenco is much more rhythm-oriented than any classical guitar. There are things in flamenco technique that involve really fast triplets.
Flamenco has that thing where the guitar is just a hair ahead of everybody else.” Liebert said.
“One is a look forward, the other a look back,” Liebert said, regarding his latest projects. “I’m combining funk and flamenco elements. So far, I’m enjoying my experiments. I don’t know if anyone else will, but I’m digging it. It’s just a mixture of things I’ve never heard before, which, to me, is interesting.”
“The other project is about reducing the music to its barest elements. We’re re-recording some of what I believe to be my best songs of the last 10 years and we’re doing it with upright bass, cajon and guitar. No electric guitar, no synthesizer. Just those three elements,” Liebert said.
“We’re presenting these things in a whole different way.”
“I’ve always found the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center to be a very relaxed, beautiful experience,” Liebert said. He’s performed there a number of times and is looking forward to his performance on Saturday.
“We’re going to have a really fun evening. It’ll be a nice cross-section of old and new, maybe some things I haven’t even recorded yet. I think people will see and hear how much we love performing.” Concluded Liebert.
Don’t miss the King of Flamenco, Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on June 15 at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.