REVIEW: Chano Dominguez and Niño Josele at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (2014 EFG LJF)

Chano Dominguez and Niño Josele(Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 17th November 2014, EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Sarah Chaplin)

In guitarist Niño Josele’s album Paz (2006), he brought his 'nuevo flamenco' sensibility to the world of jazz, and to the tunes of Bill Evans in particular, imbuing them with a joyous sparkle. So the chance to hear him in London with fellow Spaniard, jazz pianist Chano Dominguez, for this year’s festival was not to be missed. What I hadn't realized (and nor did they, judging by their astonishment) was quite how magical a venue they’d booked for the gig. You feel as if you’ve stepped back in time into a miniature carved and gilded jewellery box that’s lit solely by real chandeliers.

Bolstered by the intimacy of this interior, the two approached their material with great composure and pin-dropping clarity, letting one another build up a strong opening statement with a tune before fleshing it out into a duo piece. Their joint improvisational intent involves passionate, romantic phrases underpinned by a steadying flamenco pulse that ebbs and flows beneath. The delicacy of the low guitar tirando and apoyando against Dominguez’s upper register chordal work on the piano such as in Je t’Attendrai was very appealing. A particular highlight of the evening were the work they dedicated to their musical mentors, such as Django taken from their latest album Chano y Josele (Okeh) and dedicated of course to the great gypsy guitarist Reinhardt. At one point Dominguez respectfully left the stage to allow Josele to do a solo version of a tune by Dominguez, and then came back on stage and returned the compliment, playing something with great humility by Josele.

It’s a special thing to see two musicians working so intuitively with each other, and to be evidently relishing each other’s playing the way ‘Chano y Josele’ do so well. On a high, the pair closed the second set with a piece dedicated to the late, great Paco de Lucia, the lovely Canción de Amor, which quite literally brought a tear to my eye, and clearly the rest of the audience felt similarly emotionally aroused, drumming their feet on the wooden floor in a flamenco trill to call for an encore, to which Dominguez and Josele, smiling and bowing arm in arm like two brothers, generously agreed.

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