Carlos Alberto Calabrese: Bringing Flamenco Guitar Back to Southern Illinois

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Carlos Alberto: The Romance of Flamenco

Who: Carlos Alberto
What: flamenco
When: 2013-11-23 - 2013-11-24
You can call Carlos Alberto Calabrese a tumbleweed in the wind. Born in Buenos Aires, Calabrese, who
Sara Treat
Video Comentary

You can call Carlos Alberto Calabrese a tumbleweed in the wind. Born in Buenos Aires, Calabrese, who will play Saturday and Sunday, November 23 and 24 at Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery, has lived and toured in different areas, including Canada, Southern Illinois, Arizona, and Ohio. That kind of liberty is similar to his music and writing. His songwriting is spontaneous and, for the most part, unplanned.

“I don’t sit down and write my songs,” he said. “I’ll be going about my business and hear a tune in my head. I keep listening to that tune over and over, and the song just starts coming to me. Before the song is even completed, I’m ready to get into the studio and record it.”

For Calabrese, a spur-of-the-moment method of writing is more freeing. “If you write that way, you’re not bound by any certain structures,” he says.

Calabrese thrives on freedom, both inside and outside the studio. Currently unsigned to a label, he can make albums his way, without having to rush the process.

There are pros and cons to this. “I can spend as much time in the studio as I want,” Calabrese said. “In a label, you have to speed the process, and the inspiration can drift away.” On the other hand, “It is very hard work. Relying on yourself, you have to do all of the work, and it is a lot harder.”

Calabrese recently completed his latest album, Dance with Me. The music has a romantic, exotic sound. Some songs feature his singing, while other songs, like “Romantarab,” are purely instrumental. The album showcases his blend of flamenco, jazz, and Brazilian styles.

It took a long time for his style to develop. “That music didn’t interest me as a kid, but I loved to watch my uncles play,” Calabrese said. “I didn’t really feel it until I was in my twenties. I remembered it from all those years ago and it started to become a part of me. I went through the gamut of rock and jazz music growing up, but went back to that style. It’s closer to my heart than anything else.”

Asked if he feels as if he’s doing a good job representing his native music to the Carbondale area, he admitted, “I believe I am. I still enjoy playing the top forty and staying up-to-date because that’s important, but I prefer to stick with what represents my style.”

Search Youtube for Carlos Alberto Calabrese and the results will turn up amazing covers of “One of These Nights” by the Eagles, “Light My Fire” by the Doors, and “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor.

At the moment, Calabrese is also planning a possible reunion tour with his old band, Rio Corrientes. Though the plans are not yet finished, he knows of several places where the band will play.

“We’re going to have a show in Cleveland, Ohio, and Paducah, Kentucky, and somewhere in Southern Illinois, probably Carbondale,” Calabrese said. “We have a great fan base in Cleveland and Paducah.”

Find out more, or listen to and even purchase Dance with Me and Calabrese’s other albums, at <http://www.CarlosAlbertoCalabrese.com>.

who: Carlos Alberto

what: flamenco

where: Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery

when: Saturday and Sunday, November 23 and November 24

Carlos Alberto: The Romance of Flamenco

Venues & Businesses
Blue Sky Vineyard

Who: Carlos Alberto
What: flamenco guitar
When: 2013-02-14 - 2013-02-17
Flamenco guitarist Carlos Alberto will return to perform three shows this week at Blue Sky Vineyard
Chris Wissmann
Video Comentary

Flamenco guitarist Carlos Alberto will return to perform three shows this week at Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery. The first, Thursday, February 14, is part of a special Valentine’s Day banquet. The other two shows take place Saturday and Sunday, February 16 and 17.

The performances mark Alberto’s return to Southern Illinois after a long absence. He came here about eight years ago while his wife attended SIU to pursue a degree in forensic anthropology, and Alberto quickly developed a following as a musician. He then accompanied his wife to Canada where she furthered her studies, and the pair finally settled back in Ohio.

Alberto hasn’t exactly followed a trail upon which most people would think to find hotbeds of flamenco. “Let me tell you,” Alberto tells Nightlife, “Canada more so than Ohio. I have a pretty good following here. But the area I least expected my music to be well-received was Southern Illinois. It went over well there, and I have some of the deepest memories of Southern Illinois. I miss it. I love playing there. It felt like home to me.”

Family brought Alberto to flamenco.

“I was brought up on that style of music,” he says. “I had a great uncle who used to play when I lived in Argentina. What I play is not pure flamenco. It’s a fusion. But I was brought up on that, and that’s how I fell in love with it. I went through rock ‘n’ roll and jazz. And then I started playing [flamenco] and kept that lineage going.

“It felt great,” he continues. “Of course, it’s difficult, painstaking. I’m always cursing at myself. It still is a study, anyway. That’s the thing about the guitar: You’re always learning.”

Generally, flamenco is played in somewhat sad minor keys but buoyed by powerful, stirring Latin rhythms. Mixing melancholy timbres with upbeat propulsion creates a tug, a longing in the heart, but one that fights to find happiness instead of wallowing in depression.

Flamenco also features specialized techniques that are not often found in American folk or European classical guitar styles. Instead of using picks or the fingertips, flamenco guitarists often fan out their fingers to strum the strings in a highly rhythmic fashion. The effect is a lot harder on the hands, strings, and guitar than many other styles of playing, Alberto says.

Alberto released a physical CD, Mosaic Sky, a few years back, and since then has concentrated on digital releases. (He’s released a handful of songs on Reverb Nation and iTunes.) Not all of the songs Alberto has written, or those he covers, fit into the flamenco or Latin style. Some are fairly contemporary singer / songwriter numbers or in the mold of American folk music.

But when he decides to interpret music by others through a flamenco lens, “It’s just something that happens naturally,” Albert says. “I respect the original piece. Somehow, it just tends to flow that way when I begin to play it. I can hear it before I begin to play it. I can feel something else, I can hear something else.”

Alberto cites José Feliciano as a hero who often reinterpreted contemporary hits for Latin audiences, most famously the Doors’ “Light My Fire.” And if Alberto’s take on a song is not working, he can always dial back the original tune.

As for this week’s romantic holiday, Alberto says flamenco is a perfect fit.

“Flamenco is about passion, it’s about love, it’s about love lost,” he says. “A lot of it is about love of a country, or struggle. The music itself is very romantic, and some of the slower pieces revolve around love.”

And one thing Alberto loves is Southern Illinois.

“I’ve been away a few years,” Alberto says, “but I’m just really happy to be back. It’s just icing on the cake to me. That’s it in a nutshell. I’m just really thrilled to be coming back.”

Find out more about Albert and stream some of his music at <http://www.CarlosAlbertoCalabrese.com>.

who: Carlos Alberto

what: flamenco guitar

where: Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery

when: Thursday, February 14; Saturday and Sunday, February 16 and 17

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