Finger-picking good

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The Independent Culture
The range of flamenco and its offshoots has never been greater, from the diminishing band of old southern Cante Jondo singers and their stylistic heirs, through an array of modernisers and flamenco-rock groups to art-house dance troupes and concert-hall virtuosi. Paco Pea's niche in the spectrum is indicated by a part-time position he holds as Professor of Flamenco at Rotterdam Conservatory. Pea is learned, non-gypsy and international, dividing his time between homes in north London and his native Crdoba, where he organises a highly esteemed guitar festival and workshop.

Far from the influential jazz shaded style pioneered by the great innovator, Paco de Lucia, Pea's guitar playing has always drawn primarily on classical influences and concentrated on suavity of technique to bring out the fine ringing tone of his favourite high-stringed instrument. "When I was young," he says, "guitars were often badly constructed and roughly played. I've really concentrated on eliminating that... always polishing my nails for example." For all this, Pea is still capable of drawing on the funkier denizens of the flamenco world, as his recent Holy Week TV montage demonstrated, with its leavening of dwarf matadors and cameo from the magnificent Andalucian cantaor and sometimes jailbird Bernardo Silva "El Indio Gitano". Pea's new production, which made its debut in the US last month, features a mixture of regular collaborators, including the three guitar-playing gypsy Losada Brothers, and well established guest artists such as dancer, Joaquin Ruiz, and the singer Yeye de Cadiz, last seen in London with the Cumbrie and flamenco troup. "It's a subtle break from past shows," says Pea. "The first half starts in a very casual everyday manner, letting you see how the second half, which is the show itself, is put together." If its title, Flamenco Fire, is to be believed, however, there are bound to be Ols before bedtime.

Paco Pea's Flamenco Fire, Sadler's Wells Theatre, EC1 (0171-713 6000)