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Chano Domínguez: Prism of Duende



Chano Domínguez: Prism of DuendeIt could be the pangs of birth that a young mother is experiencing, or a feeling of a long exhalation of an old woman in the throes of death, or the blood-curdling snort of a dying bull… Or it could be all of the above that is simply being poured into a musical phrase by the three musicians. Irrespective of what it stands for, one thing is certain: Chano Domínguez writes music not with a sharpened lead of a pencil, but with the raw nerve-endings of his very fingers. They bear the insides of his soul because – to quote García Lorca again “Seeking the duende, there is neither map nor discipline. We only know it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, rejects all the sweet geometry we understand, that it shatters styles and makes Goya, master of the greys, silvers and pinks of the finest English art, paint with his knees and fists in terrible bitumen blacks, or strips Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer stark naked in the cold of the Pyrenees, or sends Jorge Manrique to wait for death in the wastes of Ocaña, or clothes Rimbaud’s delicate body in a saltimbanque’s costume, or gives the Comte de Lautréamont the eyes of a dead fish, at dawn, on the boulevard.”

It is the same duende that also raises the temperature of the blood of Chano Domínguez. He tells me that the sensation he feels when he is playing the piano is similar to a hot liquid pouring out of his whole body, not only through his fingers onto the keyboard. But from what I can understand – and experience each time I hear his music – it is the whole inside of his body; his every ounce of energy turns into an animated phantasm of a river in spate, its waters tumbling (not simply flowing) unharnessed into the guts of the piano, wetting it completely and then making it cry and sob and burst into laughter like a child. How else to describe what he does with the Miles Davis tune from all those decades ago: “The Serpent’s Tooth”? And what else but something living and breathing can a song like “Monk’s Dream” become when Mr Domínguez pays tribute to His Outness, Thelonious Monk, whom he (Mr Chano Domínguez) so admires?

We talk about music – not just his – but all Spanish music. I share my experiences of studying at Trinity College and then coming under the influence of the Spanish Jesuits as a young child, when I first fell prey to the charms of the music of Spain, especially Flamenco guitar that was played at night on Founder’s Day – the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Only a candle burned in the rectory as the guitarist played a song so sad that we wept like children. I recall that this is what I hear today sometimes in his music when he bends notes and melds Phrygian and Lydian Modes together in a manner in which even George Russell could not have imagined. He is silent for a moment. Then he says, “You know, Raul, we Spanish – we Latin… all Latin people have a very different rhythm that makes our body move; that flavours our speech… our music and our poetry.”

Again, as he is speaking, the words of García Lorca pop into my head: “La Niña de Los Peines had to tear apart her voice, because she knew experts were listening, who demanded not form but the marrow of form, pure music with a body lean enough to float on air. She had to rob herself of skill and safety: that is to say, banish her Muse, and be helpless, so her duende might come, and deign to struggle with her at close quarters. And how she sang! Her voice no longer at play, her voice a jet of blood, worthy of her pain and her sincerity, opened like a ten-fingered hand as in the feet, nailed there but storm-filled, of a Christ by Juan de Juni.” While I am preparing to write this piece a Chano Domínguez record is playing in the background. I listen to Blas Córdoba sing a capella; then Chano Domínguez punctuate, with a ululating triplet, the dying end of the phrase of “De La Pica” in an epigraph in Iman (Sunnyside Records (2003)… And hear every word that García Lorca just spoke comes alive, especially this – a description so appropriate regarding the music of Chano Domínguez:

“All the arts are capable of duende,” García Lorca said, “But where it naturally creates most space, as in music, dance and spoken poetry, the living flesh is needed to interpret them, since they have forms that are born and die, perpetually, and raise their contours above the precise present.” This is what I hear in the music of Chano Domínguez… in every note and every phrase… in every line, chorus after memorable chorus. His music is reflected and refracted in the never ending angles of the prism of duende. It is music to literally die for…

Chano Domínguez U.S./Canada 2018 Tour Dates
May 25: SFJazz, San Francisco, CA
May 26: The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), Phoenix, AZ
May 29: The Athenaeum, San Diego, CA
May 30-June 1: The Ford, Los Angeles, CA
June 2: Stanford Live, Stanford, CA
June 3: Winningstead Theater, Portland OR
June 4: Triple Door, Seattle, WA
June 6: Boise, ID venue TBA
June 26th, The Blue Note, NY (Trio featuring Alexis Cuadrado and Henry Cole)
June 28th, Montreal International Jazz Festival (Quintet, featuring Ismael Fernández and Sonia Olla)

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Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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