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Liebert, Negra fuse genres in "noveau flamenco"

Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra

Berklee Performance Center, Sunday, April 21.

Opium.

Epic Records Group.

By Lukasz A. Weber

From the mystic deserts of the Orient, in an oasis of nature's native voice, the passionate cry of Ottmar Liebert's flamenco guitar pierced the darkness of the Berklee Performance Center. This was Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra's Boston stop; the group is on tour with its brand new two-CD album, Opium. The concert brought together nature and soul in a style of music that is not quite pop, flamenco, or jazz. In fact, what Ottmar Liebert creates is a unique new style, called nouveau flamenco. And indeed, the music is fresh: gipsy guitar over the rustic drums of Carl Coletti and the thick bass of Jon Gagan, all mixed with a rich palette of percussion and natural sounds by Ron Wagner. All told, nouveau flamenco is pop with an old soul, young beat, and fervent imagination.

The rich Spanish gipsy music, reborn in the sounds of an electric guitar, grabs hold of the heart, while the club rhythm moves the body. It never loses listeners in drawn-out impromptus or numbs them with a dull beat; instead, it spits out enough energy to carry anyone through a long day or night's work. The collage of styles and sounds of nouveau flamenco directly reflect Ottmar Liebert's unique past and the Luna Negra's history.

Born in Cologne, Germany to a Chinese-German father and a Hungarian mother, Ottmar Liebert travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Far East. Perhaps it is here that the Arabic and Oriental influences, along with the gipsy guitar, took root. Thus, Ottmar's classical guitar, which he started playing at the age of 12, was influenced by pop and jazz. When Ottmar Liebert arrived in the United States, he settled here in Boston.

His musical career started in local clubs and eventual evolved into the Red Funk Band. But the style of nouveau flamenco did not blossom until his 1986 move to Sante Fe, New Mexico, where nature and spirit inspired rapid growth. for the first time Ottmar Liebert picked up the flamenco guitar for the first time in 1988 and soon formed a new band called Luna Negra. All his experience came together and burst out in a stream of albums. One of these is the celebrated platinum album Nouveau Flamenco, which contains the hits "Barcelona Nights" and "Heart Still/Beating."

The ninth and newest album, Opium, is the cause of Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra's present United States tour. The tour, which started in the South and will end this summer back on the west coast, will next head to Europe. Meanwhile, Ottmar Liebert will work with Santana on a remake of the classic, "Samba Pa Ti." All its current tour information, including diaries and sound clips, can be accessed at the group's site on the World-Wide Web, http://www.lunanegra.com, and where more accurate information can be found on its planed return to Boston in November. Be sure not to miss out on a great occasion to see Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra perform live, and to hear the vintage passion and fresh rhythm of nouveau flamenco.