Ottmar Liebert performs June 14 at Clearwater’s Capitol Theatre.
CLEARWATER – According to Ottmar Liebert, “flamenco is a music both romantic and dangerous; it is an attitude as much as it is a musical genre.” Liebert and his band Luna Negra will perform Saturday, June 14, 8 p.m., at Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Tickets start at $35. Call 791-7400 or visit www.atthecap.com.
Liebert’s philosophy regarding his music catapulted him to fame at the end of the ’80s with an engaging mix of subdued flamenco guitar and South American percussion, rock, jazz, and pop influences. His attitude actually suppresses the more challenging and dangerous aspects of flamenco in favor of the romantic and the stylish. He's not a technical wizard on the guitar, but he has a feel for the music's innate sensuality and a gift for creating memorable melodies.
Liebert was born in Cologne, Germany, to a Chinese-German father and Hungarian mother. He was 11 years old when he began playing guitar. During his youth, he had the opportunity to travel extensively to European and Asian destinations. At each vista, Liebert absorbed each musical tradition he encountered.
Liebert initially pursued a different dream: He tried to get a foothold in the rock and roll industry, both in Germany and later in Boston. He eventually abandoned his aspirations, leaving the East Coast and settling in Santa Fe, N.M.
According to Segue Entertainment, it was only after years of trying to hit the big time in various jazz-funk bands that Liebert began playing acoustic guitar in Santa Fe restaurants. His first self-produced cassette, “Nouveau Flamenco,” was basically recorded for friends, but the album received heavy radio airplay in Los Angeles. In 1990, Higher Octave Records re-released it nationally, expanding the artist’s audience.
His subsequent album, “Borrasca,” quickly climbed the charts and Liebert was picked up by a major label, Epic. Since then, Liebert has brought flamenco to mainstream America with a level of class and accessibility. His prowess as a composer and instrumentalist has steadily improved over the years.
According to the biography on the artist’s website, by 1989, Liebert had founded the first incarnation of his band Luna Negra. Those transitional years proved to be quite a culture shock.
“I was honestly happy playing this music in hotels and restaurants in Santa Fe, and going in one year from doing that to opening for Miles Davis was a pretty intense jump,” he said in the biography. “Most shocking for me was to realize how many different people from so many diverse cultures embraced it.”
Liebert is now recognized as one of the most successful instrumental artists of the past quarter century, performing before loyal fans on the road and releasing a series of classic recordings. His discography includes the remix collection “Euphoria (1995), the live album “Viva!” (1995), the double CD “Opium” (1996), “Leaning into the Night” (1997), “Little Wing” (2001), “Arms of Love” (2002), “The Santa Fe Sessions” (2003), “La Semana” (2004), “Winter Rose” (2005),
Well into his career – after 22 releases – the award-winning guitarist released a daring and unadorned recording in 2006, “One Guitar,” on his own record label SSRI. ”One Guitar,” Liebert’s first solo guitar recording, is flled with gorgeous soulful performances and a palette full of intimate moods and lush landscapes. The album earned Liebert his fourth nomination for a Grammy.
Since then, Liebert has continued to record and release new material, including “Up Close” (2008), “The Scent of Light” (2008), “Petals on the Path” (2010), “Santa Fe” (2011) and “Dune” (2012).
Liebert’s newest studio recording, “three-oh-five,” was released this year. In its review, the website Cultural Court described the album as “music that is relaxed, but has that sort of down low playing that hipsters everywhere commit crimes to achieve” and said it features “Moorish, Andalusian, American Bluesy” strains which are “wedded with a sort of African Genesis boogie.”
Liebert also released “Bare Wood” this year.
“Bare Wood is a compilation of pieces I created between 2002 and 2012,” Liebert said on his website. “For this album I deleted all electric or electronic instruments from the original recordings and removed anything that was not Flamenco guitar or Cajun. I recorded additional Flamenco guitar parts and Jon recorded entirely new upright acoustic bass tracks for every piece. What emerged was the essence, the soul, the bare wood of the music.”