German-born guitarist Ottmar Liebert cited the comments of a friend when asked to describe the sound of new album “Dune”: “No rain – just poetic sunshine.”
Without lyrics to emote feelings, Liebert’s flamenco-influenced, classical-guitar album nevertheless exudes a warm vibe. The 15-track instrumental record is more mellow than some of his previous music, but also contains bursts of drum beats and hand clapping that heighten the rhythm of Liebert’s jazz-infused melodies.
Liebert’s first album, “Marita: Shadows and Storms,” debuted in 1989, and the guitarist has since achieved a place of note among classical flamenco guitarists, including Spanish-born Paco de Lucia. Since then, the 54-year-old musician has recorded 34 albums with his band, Luna Negra, five of which were nominated for Grammys.
Set to play at midtown’s Harlow’s tonight , Liebert said he’s played in Sacramento for more than 20 years and enjoys visiting the city. “There are a lot of people that I meet after the show that are very familiar with the music,” Liebert said. “It’s a great audience.”
The Bee recently spoke to Liebert by phone while he was at his home base in Santa Fe, N.M., the day before he began his 27-stop tour with his band.
What’s in store for Sacramento listeners at your show?
This year we’ll come to Sacramento with a trio – Chris Steele on percussion, John Gagan on bass, and I play guitar. We’ll do a little bit from this, a little bit from that, some things from the new album, some things from the first album. So it will be a mix.
You picked up the guitar when you were relatively young.
It was over 40 years ago. I’m not exactly sure, but I asked for a guitar when I was 11 for Christmas, and I think I really wanted to play electric guitar. We lived in a small apartment and I knew that wish would never be granted. I asked for a classical guitar and figured I could do that for a few years and figure out if I could somehow ... play electric.
You were born in Cologne, Germany, but you play flamenco-style music. Tell me about that.
Well, I was first introduced to flamenco when I was about 14. I found music by a guitar player who played in the traditional style. I was really impressed with how much energy he got out of the nylon-string instrument. When I moved to Santa Fe in ’86, I studied traditional guitar for a long time with a traditional player.
The first album was very successful so I started experimenting with different things, different ways to combine music. Tradition is very important, but it’s also important to have some people who combine stuff in different ways to see how things can live alongside each other.
Your music is instrumental. Why no singing and lyrics?
If I could put it in words, I would, but since I can’t, I put it in music. Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. The interesting part about instrumental music is it’s more like a book. When you read a description of a tree in a book you have to grow that tree in your mind and every person will interpret those words a little different.
So that’s sort of what instrumental music is like. Writing a song with lyrics is more like a movie. A movie is much more plain entertainment – there’s not really much that you have to do. A book is active entertainment. You have to be involved.
What motivates your music?
I like making music. I like playing guitar. For me, it’s a physical enjoyment, a sonic enjoyment. My ears enjoy it, my hands enjoy it. I like everything about it.
What’s your songwriting process?
Sometimes before, what would happen is I dreamed a song and I would just wake up and play it and I knew it note for note. But often, it’s work. I come back to a chord sequence or melody and try to figure our the best way to play it. With a lot of songs, I have no idea how I arrived at them. There’s no system in it for me.
Where is your music heading?
I’m working on two albums. I was really into funk music in the mid-to-late ’70s and so I am working on a way to combine traditional flamenco rhythms with funk elements. It will be a little different than all of my music; it’s mostly percussion driven. My bass player said he’s never heard anything quite like it, and for me that’s a good thing.
(For the other) I thought it would be interesting to do 12 of my favorite songs in an extremely bare setting, so it’s sort of stripped down to three elements – flamenco guitar, upright bass, and a cajon. This will be a very limited, small palette.
Call The Bee’s Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103.