A World View

Cerro Negro

Considering the varied sources of Cerro Negro's globe-spanning music--the Middle East, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America --it's hardly a surprise that the trio has titled its forthcoming third album Where In the World?

Listeners may wonder just that when they hear the Fresno, Calif., group's pan-Latin combination of flamenco, salsa, rhumba, world-beat and smooth jazz. Then again, the sound that results from this collision is relaxing and beguiling enough that sympathetic listeners won't worry about its origins even as they sink into its allure.

Cerro Negro will return to Tucson to play this Saturday night as part of the fifth annual Courtyard Concert Series at Plaza Palomino.

A relatively recent phenomenon of the 1990s, the nuevo flamenco movement is made possible by a new generation of modern-minded virtuosos, mostly guitarists, who may have listened during their formative years to as much Top 40 pop and album-oriented rock as they did to traditional flamenco music.

The style borrows rhythms and motifs from Spanish and gypsy music and--drawing on the attitude and propulsion behind rock, pop and jazz fusion--attracts audiences of primarily baby boomers, although younger and older fans also have been known to fall under the music's sway. Among nuevo flamenco's most famous practitioners are Ottmar Liebert, Jesse Cook, Eric Hansen and the duos Bendetti & Svoboda and Strunz & Farah.

The breezy other-worldliness of the music is ideal for those listeners among us--weary perhaps of top-of-the-charts one-hit-wonders--who in early decades might have been attracted to the smooth sounds of the Brazilian invasion (Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, et al.) or the lounge exotica of Martin Denny and Les Baxter.

Cerro Negro boasts its own virtuoso in lead guitarist Dusty Brough who recently joined founding members Frank Giordano (rhythm guitar) and John Martin III (percussion and vocals) for the recording of Where In the World? Martin's use of African and Caribbean-derived percussion instruments--such as the djembe, clave, congas and cajon-- bring a unique flavor to the trio's sound. Guest players also sit in occasionally on such instruments as clarinet, piano, harmonica and horns.

The record actually is refreshingly diverse, with its songs ranging from innocuous acoustic-guitar accompaniment for beachside Piña Colada sipping to infectious salsa rhythms, dreamy North Africa soundscapes and jaunty Django Reinhardt-style gypsy jazz.

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