LIBÉRICA, new project by Manel Fortià (feat. Antonio Lizana) presents ARRELS (Segell Microscopi, December 2021)
Arrels takes an approach to traditional Catalan music from a new fresh and regenerating perspective, where flamenco, jazz and Catalan folklore go together.
Arrels (Segell Microscopi, 2021) is the first album of Libérica, this new project led by the Catalan double bass player Manel Fortià, who after a season living in New York and having played with great jazz icons such as Dave Liebman, Eliot Zigmund, Ari Hoenig, Chris Cheek … decides to return to his homeland and delve into the traditional Catalan repertoire having in mind the musical effervescence of the jazz mecca, where its multiculturalism has always been creating new musical styles as the result of the fusion between themselves. With this philosophy, Libérica seeks common ground between traditional Catalan songs and flamenco, using jazz as a connection nexus. It is necessary to renew and update the folklore because it enlarge his life. That is why the Fira Mediterrania of Manresa opted for this project last October, programming it as one of the festival’s highlights.
It is an album that revisits great standards of traditional Catalan songbook such as “La Dama d’Aragó”, “El Cant Dels Ocells” or “Els Tres Tambors” in the key of flamenco and jazz. There is a beautiful mix of the original catalan lyrics and some traditional flamenco “cantes” that speaks about same themes using different words. The voices of the Catalan singer Pere Martínez and the Cádiz-born Antonio Lizana represent these two coexisting worlds within the Iberian Peninsula that join in Libérica in a organic and free way thanks to jazz, which has become an integrating music and a universal language during these last decades.
The choice of Manel Fortià for the traditional repertoire on the Arrels album is the result of the nostalgia he lived in the last years that he was in the United States. He needed to search his musical roots and he began to incorporate into his repertoire some Catalan hymns such as “El Cant dels Ocells”, which he also covers with flamenco sounds together with the singer Magalí Sare. Then it was when his desire to continue experimenting in that direction arises. Also during that time he met the legendary pianist Chano Dominguez, a huge master in flamenco-jazz and with whom he is working regularly nowadays. Chano is one of the musicians who inspired him the most and makes him grow his passion for this genre, which his mentor Javier Colina had already awakened when he was a student at the Taller de Músics in Barcelona.
The Libérica group, apart from having the stellar collaboration of the Cádiz-born saxophonist and cantaor Antonio Lizana, an exceptional musician with a long international career who has established himself as a benchmark in his style, it also has two of the new values of flamenco-jazz made in Catalonia such as the singer Pere Martinez and the pianist Max Villavecchia from the revelation group “Los Aurora”. In addition, it has the international collaboration of one of the rising stars in European modern jazz, the French drummer Raphael Pannier (Miguel Zenón, Aaron Goldberg…), who lives between Paris and New York.
“In a society where we are increasingly faced with more norms that trap and control us, music is one of the few spaces where we can still be free. This is one of the reasons why Libérica was born, to help us connect with our roots from the air and make us travel through them” (M. Fortià).
* Libérica is a co-production of Manel Fortià, La Marfà Creation Center and the Auditori de Girona.
The album opens with “La Dama d’Aragó”, in a very round arrangement where Fandango de Huelva and Seguiriya are mixed. After the presentation of the song, we find a cante by Antonio that shake us, continuing with an explosive sax solo with some flavours of maestro Paco de Lucia.
Next we find “El Cant dels Ocells”, this arrangement already mentioned by Soleá por Bulerías, sung exceptionally by Pere that naturally takes us towards a soft double bass solo. After a traditional flamenco singing by Antonio, the last melody makes us travel to an energetic coda by Bulerías where the sax shines again with intensity.
Following a magnificent drums introduction by Raphael, a very original arrangement of “Els 3 Tambors” starts by Tanguillos de Cadiz, where the rhythmic and playful piano reminds us of maestro Keith Jarrett in his solo piano concerts. Pere’s relaxed and soft voice delight us as he introduces the song. Continuing with the love theme of the lyrics, Antonio reminds us of the great Camaron de la Isla in a powerful and deep singing that leads us to solos. It is perhaps the most elaborate arrangement on the album, as it takes us on a sonic and stylistic journey playing with the motif of the melody and constantly changing its character.
Then we find ourselves in the most dramatic moment of the album, where a jailhouse seguiriya introduces us to the melody of “La Presó de Lleida” only accompanied by traditional “yunque” (simulating the prison bars) and by a snare roll as if it were a Saeta. The story progresses slowly until Antonio’s flamenco jailer cante arrives, representing the pain of the prisoners. After a magnificent solo shared between piano and sax we reach the end of the story that returns us to the dramatic mood of the beginning, when the account tells the daughter that she will execute all the prisoners.
In the final stretch, after this solemn finale, we find a joyful double bass solo introduction, very well executed where Manel plays freely with the melody of the song La Bella Lola, which is a Catalan Habanera, with the rhythm of a Flamenco Guajira. We find a connection between the Catalan habaneras and the flamenco guajiras, two styles that connect us with Cuba from different points of view and traditions.
This introduction leads us to another habanera by Nicolau Guanyabens, “La Calma de la Mar”, which will conclude the album. Perhaps the most dynamic version with a more jazzy sound, some kind of a jazz fandango. Pere’s voice shines with this beautiful melody, very well supported by the whole band, which shows that he has a very good understanding and solidity in the way the piece grows. At the peak, after a beautiful solo shared between the double bass and the piano, Antonio appears with a cante by Fandangos that talks about the sea and the storms, to end the chorus that slowly decreases the intensity again and ends with the calm that has begun. A good ending for an album with many different colors but with a very clear common thread.
Antonio Lizana is undoubtedly one of the new values of today’s flamenco-jazz. Born in San Fernando (Cádiz), his solidity and brilliance as a saxophonist and cantaor makes him an exceptional and unique musician, with an impressive control of both languages and his own personality. He has collaborated with artists such as Arturo O’Farrill and Alejandro Sanz on works that received Grammy awards; also with Snarky Puppy, Marcus Miller, Chano Domínguez, Alfredo Rodríguez, Ari Hoenig, Jorge Drexler, India Martínez, Jorge Pardo, Shai Maestro, Chambao, José Mercé, Josemi Carmona, Carmen Linares, Pepe Habichuela …
Pere Martínez, who emerged from the team of the Taller de Músics, is one of the young talents of Spanish flamenco with the most projection. Born in Sant Cugat (Barcelona), he is familiar with the tradition and classical flamenco singing, but he has also given voice to works from other musical genres such as; contemporary classical music, flamenco song or Catalan song. Réquiem a Enrique Morente, Los Aurora or Tantos Records are some of the most recognized works by this cantaor who, with the way he understands his singing, is making his way onto the music scene.
Max Villavecchia is one of the new generation pianists and composers with the greatest personality and versatility. Born in Barcelona and trained at the Taller de Músics and at the Van Amsterdam Conservatory, he has always been very active participating in a multitude of very diverse projects, of which we can highlight “Los Aurora” where he is also one of the main composers. He combines different musical adventures that make the young pianist a musician with a transversal character: jazz, flamenco, fusion, folklore, songwriting and free improvisation are styles that coexist in the artist’s sound universe.
Raphael Pannier has established himself as one of the new values of European jazz. Born in Paris and having lived most of his life in Boston and New York, he returned to France with his debut album “Faune” (French Paradox, 2020), which has garnered enormous recognitions and awards from the international press such as Downbeat, NPR, Jazztimes. … He has played with musicians of the stature of Miguel Zenón, Aaron Goldberg, Steve Wilson, Bob James, Lee Ritenour … having toured all over the world, which undoubtedly makes him one of the most promising French musicians of this era.
- La Dama d’Aragó (Fandango-Jazz/Seguiriya):
- El Cant dels Ocells (Soleá por Bulerías):
Management & Booking: