Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra: Ottmar Liebert, Jon Gagan, Mark Clark, Michael Chavez, Kanoa Kaluhiwa, Gary Lyons, Eric Schermerhorn, Paul Gonzales, Michael Middleton, Carl Coletti, Ron Wagner, Davo Bryant.
Recorded at Spiral Soundwave, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Since his last album of new material, 1999's Innamorare, Ottmar Liebert has been represented in the record racks by two repackagings of his earlier material, one a reissue of his best-selling debut, Nouveau Flamenco, in which he had a hand, and the other a compilation of his early recordings for Higher Octave Records. Little Wing has the feel of another reissue, even though it is newly recorded. Having reconsidered his first work and, as he makes clear in the liner notes, begun to consider future projects (including solo guitar and synthesizer albums), he seems to have decided to make an album in the style of his popular initial recordings. This approach is clear in the album's original compositions, which again investigate flamenco from a relaxed, Southwestern perspective, and in the four cover songs, all of which present familiar tunes in the guitarist's familiar style. Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" has long been a favorite of rock guitarists (notably Derek and the Dominos-era Eric Clapton), who tend to use it as a change-of-pace ballad. Liebert's interpretation is livelier than most, bringing out the buoyancy as well as the beauty of the melody. His version of "The Girl From Ipanema" relaxes the song's usual bossa nova feel but remains appealing. Not surprisingly, his "Paint It Black" is not as urgent or threatening as the Rolling Stones' original, instead emphasizing the song's exotic flavor, complete with the use of a Turkish saz; Brian Jones would approve. Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" has proven surprisingly versatile over the years, even serving as the basis for a Puff Daddy rap, but Liebert's interpretation brings out aspects not touched on before. Little Wing is likely to appeal to the million-plus fans who bought Nouveau Flamenco, though those who have followed Liebert's stylistic explorations since may feel he's repeating himself. ~ William Ruhlmann