Monday, February 17, 2014

ND — Carlos Montoya: From St. Louis to Seville (and a book...)

Carlos Montoya: From St. Louis to Seville
(RCA/Victor LPM-1986)

This new entry in the infrequent series Notes on discography (ND) is about an early experiment in jazz-flamenco fusion. From St. Louis to Seville is an album by Carlos Montoya published in 1959, at a time when the recording business was booming partly thanks to the mass introduction of stereo and hi-fi, flamenco had began to be well known in the US, and jazz was going through a sweet spot in its history. The significance of this LP is more historical than musical, given the context of both flamenco (think Sabicas) or jazz at the time, or even the meeting of jazz and Spanish music arranged by Miles Davis and Gil Evans about a year later in their Sketches of Spain.

In any case, what concerns us here is discographical data, which have not been properly published, as far as I know. Without access to the session ledgers, I cannot provide matrix and take numbers, but from the back cover of the original LP we know that it was recorded on November 3, 1958, at RCA Studio A.

The original album does not give any hint on the personnel. We know who provides the flamenco, but not who brings in the jazz.

However, Montoya was interviewed by Grover Sales for Jazz — A Quarterly of American Music ("No Many Volts", pp. 120-123, issue no.2, Spring 1959). There, Sally Montoya, Carlos's wife says:
"Carlos just recorded the first Flamenco jazz record for Victor, with Osie Johnson and Milt Hinton and Barry Galbraith on electric guitar. A most relaxed and informal session. The other musicians said it was unique in their experience."
Leaving aside the sometimes cringing tone of the interview (Sales chooses to transcribe Montoya's broken English literally), it's interesting to see that RCA gave the royal treatment to Montoya for this experiment (Galbraith-Hinton-Johnson were possibly the busiest rhythm section in NYC at the time, excellent at both playing jazz and sight-reading scores). The interview is also a rare portrait of a Spanish musician in the midst of a promotional tour of the States.

All in all, the data for this record are as follows (subject to whatever the original ledgers say):

Date of recording: Monday, November 3, 1958.
Location: RCA Studio A, Manhattan, New York, NY.
(Address: 155 E. 24th St.)

Personnel: Carlos Montoya (Spanish guitar), Barry Galbraith (electric guitar), Milt Hinton (bass), Osie Johnson (drums).

Jasmine records in the UK has just reissued this album as part of a 2-CD set called Flamenco Fury (Jasmine JASC753). It's available on Spotify too (tracks 1-10). This is the opening track:


For those interested in jazz, flamenco, and everything in-between, Dr. Juan Zagalaz (UCLM) is working on a book (in Spanish) about Flamenco and jazz. Until it's out, you may whet your appetite with his scholarly article (in English) about Chick Corea and Paco de Lucía, published in the prestigious Journal of Jazz Studies. For Spotify users, most of the music mentioned in the article can be listened to in these two playlists: albums / tunes.

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