An Appreciation: Enrique Morente

By Fernando Gonzalez

Singer Enrique Morente, arguably the leading voice in flamenco, died today (Monday Dec. 13) at a private hospital in Madrid. He had been in an induced coma since December 6, after undergoing surgery for stomach cancer. Morente would have been 68 on December 25.

A cantaor (singer) with impeccable traditional credentials, Morente will probably be most remembered as a fearless innovator who was seemingly always open to experimentations and collaborations that might expand the flamenco vocabulary. He not only put to flamenco music the works of poets Federico Garcia Lorca and Antonio Machado,  sang Vivaldi,  and explored Gregorian chant, and flamenco’s connections with Cuban and African music (the show Africa-Cuba-Cai in Mallorca in 2002).  He also did the same with jazz (with Max Roach’s M’Boom ensemble no less, in Seville in 1992) and, perhaps most notably, alternative rock.

His 1996 album Omega, was a collaboration with the group Lagartija Nick and a superb lineup of flamenco players including guitarists Tomatito, Cañizares and Vicente Amigo. The piece featured songs by Leonard Cohen  (such as “Manhattan” ) and the poetry of Garcia Lorca.  (It was presented live at BAM’s Next Wave Festival in 2003.)

“I’ve never pretended to innovate, but to create and express myself,” he was quoted by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, after the reissue of Omega.

Morente was also interested in theatre, appearing as an actor in several productions,  and while he didn’t write or read music, he did compose music for theater, film, and television.

A completed new recording and DVD, titled El Barbero de Picasso (Picasso´s Barber) is scheduled for release next March. Morente had already paid tribute to Picasso the writer, adapting several of his texts to flamenco, in his Pablo de Malaga (2008).

A selected Enrique Morente discography:

Cantes Antiguos del Flamenco (with guitarist Niño Ricardo) (Hispavox, 1986)

Se Hace Camino al Andar (Hispavox, 1975,1996)

Homenaje a Don Antonio Chacón (with guitarist Pepe Habichuela, Hispavox, 1978)

Misa Flamenca (featuring flamenco fusion with Gregorian chant). (Ariola, 1991)

Omega (with Lagartija Rock, Tomatito, Cañizares, and others. (El Europeo, 1996)

Morente – Sabicas (with Sabicas). (Ariola, 1990)

Sacromonte (with Isidro Sanlúcar and Tomatito).  (Sony, 1986)

Lorca (Virgin-Chewaca, 2000)

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