Wonderful blending of classical flamenco and individual style, good intro to art
On Maria Zemantauski's first cd, "Mrs. Laughinghouse," listeners who had not caught one of her shows in Upstate New York, at the Michigan Women's Music Festival, or at one of the many universities where she had been invited to perform and lecture, were introduced to the artist's unique Flamenco style: classical guitar music that, while within the framework of the genre, brought something new to the table. Maria, one of the few female classical flamenco guitarrists performing today, "plays like a girl." And a hip, modern girl at that! On ML, Maria walks the fine line between her musical heritage and her vision of its future.
On her second cd, "Seeing Red," Maria pushed the bounderies of flamenco into the wider realm of world music. While ML consisted of Maria and her guitar (though it often sounds like much more), SR expands from this format with Afro-Carribean and Middle Eastern influences and several guest artists, who at times take center stage.
Now, on her third album, "Under the Lemon Tree," Maria takes another new direction. While this album is undoubtedly rooted in classical Spanish guitar, and many pieces would not be out of place in a era long past, Maria once again exhibits her unique ability to experiment with other forms of music without losing touch with her musical foundation.
The album opens with a beautiful classical piece by Isaac Albeniz, "Rumores de la Caleta," and the original composition "Midnight in Gibraltar," which both showcase the seeming ease with which Maria navigates the many moods of the genre, with it's changes of tempo, flourishes, and quick stops. The third track, "River Street," diverges from the flameco style, and is the first hint of the new tack Maria will take on this cd: a foray into American traditional music. What begins as a slow piece full of languid anticipation quickens in pace until, by the end, the playing is near-frenzied; throughout the piece, the musical references to unadulturated Appalachian finger-picking are in abundance.
The fourth track, "Sundina's Dance," lets the listener catch their breath to this charming purely Spanish sounding piece. This is followed by "Chanteuse," which in tone is very much in line with Maria's original works on "Mrs. Laughinghouse," right down to the artist's guitar-slap percussion. "Vals Solitaire" also hearkens back to ML, but to Maria's slower-paced pieces, full of dramatic tension. "Winter" starts out slow and romantic, crescendoing into a high-powered middle bridge before settling back down in a meditative groove.
The album's title track is a gorgeous flamenco piece, full of heated passion, anticipation, and excitement. The kind of song to which the handsome bullfighter will tango with his forbidden lover and begin a doomed love affair! "Paprika" is another spicy Spanish piece, followed by Francisco Tarrega's "Recuerdos de la Alhambra." This otherworldly piece manages to be relaxing and haunting at the same time, and is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The cd finishes with an incredible interpretation of "Amazing Grace (... for Donna)", which after a tantalzing intro, segues into the well-known standard. While there are some classical underpinnings to the intro, the melody is played again in old American style, with a depth rarely heard in such a well-worn, taken-for-granted tune.
If you liked Maria's earlier albums, definately buy this cd. If you have never listened to Maria before, "Under the Lemon Tree" would be a great introduction to her work, with it's variety of styles and levels of intricacy.