Odisea is an odyssey, a voyage to distant shores; it is also an exploration inward. Andreas Arnold’s third album, Odisea, charts his decade-long journey from jazz to flamenco and back, a full circle where he has found not only his own unique style of flamenco fusion and intersections — but also a kind of musical origin.
“I think this album is sort of a homecoming for me," Arnold said. "Back to a looser and improvised approach, while incorporating many things that I’ve learned during my travels across the vast seas of flamenco. Back to jazz elements, even back to classical elements that are rooted in my childhood.”
Like any epic, the protagonist arrives where he started, yet changed and transformed. His last album, Ojos Cerrados, released in 2016 was tightly composed and arranged, a display of Arnold’s dexterity as both an instrumentalist and composer.
If the guitar provides the monologue in many typical flamenco guitar albums, then Odisea is Arnold’s push for a dialogue with artists he admires: Petros Klampanis from Greece on double bass, and percussionist Miguel Hiroshi born in Japan but raised in Granada, Spain.
For a three-hour recording session one night in Brooklyn, Arnold brought in material that would “allow or even force us to be spontaneous and ‘in the moment’.” The result are five tracks — Cai - BK, Paris Ciel Gris, Bike Messenger, Alikianos and Continuum — lyrical albeit chilled Mediterranean jazz where the feel is textured, intimate and intertwining, a call and response often reminiscent of waxing and waning tides.
The first track of the album, Cai - BK opens with the warming sounds of a sunny morning and is an homage to home, what for Arnold is “like two hearts beating in the same breast” living between Cadiz and Brooklyn. Likewise, there's a duality and textured shift between to airier contemporary flamenco, to more rooted syncopations of jazz and blues.
Bike Messenger's riffs build and peak, inspired by the calculations and palpitations of NYC bike messengers shooting down concrete alleys. For Ciel Gris, Paris, the trio of Arnold, Klampanis and Hiroshi are joined by up-coming Parisian trumpeter David Encho for a track in a 9/4 time that evokes the City of Light’s characteristic dueling moods of melancholy and inspiration, nostalgia and insight. In Continuum, Arnold, Hiroshi and Klampanis reignite the gorgeous composition created by Jaco Pastorius.
Alikianos is a haunting track with Maria Manousaki on violin with the 5/4 time signature typical of Cretan and Greek music. Alikianos is a village in Crete, where Manousaki and Arnold played together at a festival. With German nationality, Arnold was moved by how the village embraced him. "The stage for the festival was set up in a dry river bed, in front of a massive bridge/aqueduct. During soundcheck, I talked with a local villager and he explained that during the Second World War, the Germans executed many men from the village in this very spot… the warmth and openness I received from the locals before, during and after my concert wasn’t taken for granted and deeply touched me.”
The more flamenco half of the album was written and recorded split between Cadiz, Madrid and New York. While they’re more structured and arranged sets with the traditional flamenco falsettas, they also reimagine flamenco jazz, or contemporary flamenco in unexpected ways.
In Alas al Alma, flamenco cantaora (singer) Rocio Parrilla from the famed Parrilla family of Jerez sings: La promesa que el dinero compra la libertad Miro a mi alrededor, y no lo veo. (The promise that money buys freedom/ I look around me and I don’t see it.) The lyrics continue as much as Arnold's hymn for an alternative future as a critique of capitalism. Vive, no tenga miedo/ Aprender sonar despierto. (Live, don’t have fear/ Learn to dream awake.)
For Solea x H20, pianist Guy Mintus on piano and melodica joins Arnold for a solea por buleria with Jeremy Smith on percussion, inspired by water. "I was thinking of water and how it can change its shape and texture and I tried to capture this in the music," Arnold said. With its circular, mantra-like rhythmic pattern, the guitar, melodica and piano diverge and reconnect, from monologues into dialogues, like interweaving rivers. A video of the live recoding in the studio will be released in February.
The title track, Odisea, features on percussion Juan Carmona, from the Carmona family -- his father was the guitarist of the 90s flamenco - Latin fusion band, Ketama. With trumpet, a zapateado rhythm of flamenco footwork defines the track, with an interlude into a bulería rhythm in the middle.
With Cristian Soto on vocals, Tangos Arabe evokes flamenco's genesis from Moorish North Africa and Arab music traditions. Arnold presents an arrangement that juxtaposes the more traditional flamenco guitar with in an unorthodox style of tangos.
Andreas Arnold has participated in numerous productions as an instrumentalist, composer, improviser, and producer, touring on five continents. He studied jazz guitar at the conservatory of Amsterdam and later in NYC with Mike Stern, John Abercrombie and Wayne Krantz before entering a period of complete dedication to the art of flamenco guitar. He is currently the musical director for internationally renowned Jordanian singer Farah Siraj as well as for the New York Flamenco Jazz Project. Arnold has released three albums of original electric and acoustic music under his name. This is his fourth.
Odisea is a meditation on duality: flamenco and jazz, a waxing and waning, intimacy and expansion. How at the end of an odyssey is a homecoming; but also, how exploration is another way to reimagine home.