In the world of optics, a prism is a transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces that refract light. In an age where album artwork is less a cherished part of the musical experience as in years past, new flamenco artist Daniel Girón uses the cover of his new full-length recording, Prisma, to visually reflect the glorious array of sounds coming from and surrounding his acoustic guitar.
“When I talk about colors, I mean the sound of my guitar when music passes through it,” says the Tampa, FL based multi-talented composer and performer. “It allows me to project colors. When musicians use that term, we’re talking about the tones. We may like the color of someone’s voice or the instrument. Playing music this way, especially for live audiences, creates a feeling of ‘llenar mi espiritu’ – a fulfilled spirit.”
In creating his melodic, soulful and multi-textured sound, the Colombian born Girón draws from a rich palette of influences, including elements of his classical training and the rumba music his dad played in the house when he was growing up. He is also influenced by contemporary masters of flamenco, including his idol Paco De Lucia, modern master Vicente Amigo and renowned rumba flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook.
Ten years after recording his first album, a strictly classical work simply titled Classical Guitar, Girón – who began recording in his current style with Hoja de Nogal in 2012 – fashions an artful blend of flamenco music and many other Latin influences. He complements his easy rolling, melodic guitar vibe with dynamic harmonies via retro keyboards and additional instrumentation. This includes the dynamics-rich cello of Russian-born Eduard Teregulov, the sizzling jazz trumpet of young Tampa-based performer Jackson Harp and, on “Shadows of Blue” and “My Rumba,” the inventive piano magic of Chuchito Valdez – son of legendary Cuban pianist and bandleader Chucho Valdes.
“On Prisma, the guitar work is more complicated than on my previous album,” Girón says. “I started listening to the great artists who perform this kind of contemporary flamenco, and I wanted to create my own Latin twist to it while providing an outlet for the pieces I have been writing these past few years. The songs are full of interesting chords and contemporary melodies and harmonies, which are not the usual flamenco harmonies, but ones that use more jazzy elements like trumpet. There’s a lot of passion in my playing, but my classical training keeps me from getting overly aggressive. In many ways, the music on Prisma is like a compilation of tunes inspired by all the wonderful music I heard growing up – until I switched to electric guitar and started playing hard rock and heavy metal! It’s great to be back home.”
In 2003, Girón moved to the U.S. on a work visa to play regularly with a touring Colombian music band. He eventually relocated to the Tampa area, where he has stayed active in musical productions, arrangement and performances, in addition to building a guitar teaching practice over the past 15 years. He keeps a busy local performance schedule, averaging five nights a week playing for private parties, high-end restaurants and hotels, including the lobby bar at the Don Cesar hotel in St. Petersburg and the Spanish restaurant Vizcaya. He has also played regularly at the University of South Florida, in addition to numerous Latin festivals and classical recitals. Though it was Colombian music that brought him to the U.S., he much prefers the Spanish and Cuban music that happens to be very popular – and keeps him working constantly – in the Tampa Bay area. His sets blend well known new flamenco songs by the likes of Ottmar Liebert and Jesse Cook with original material. He works with drummer and percussionist Jose Lao.
NOTABLE LIVE PERFORMANCES
Straz Center, Jaeb Theater – Tampa, FL
Palladium – St. Petersburg, FL
Sand Key Marriott – Clearwater Beach, FL
St. Leo College – Saint Leo, FL
Tampa Catholic High School – Tampa, FL
Florida Aquarium – Tampa, FL
Dali Museum – St. Petersburg, FL
Moffitt Cancer Center – Tampa, FL
Station House – St. Petersburg, FL
Vizcaya – Tampa, FL
Chakana – Tampa, FL
Green Lemon – Tampa, FL
Margaritas – Tampa, FL
Perfectly in line with the album title concept, the songs on Prisma roll out with a burst of joyful, easy rolling melodies, exquisite acoustic guitar performances and a multitude of colorful harmonic textures. The set opens with the title track, a showcase for Girón’s intricate finger work, which flows gracefully over a bed of light percussion. It also includes a spirited Fender Rhodes solo and an explosive trumpet improvisational section by Jackson Harp. On the beautiful, sensual ballad “Shadows of Blue,” the guitarist surrounds his gentle melody with the caressing harmony and solo of Teregulov’s cello, Harp’s trumpet and Valdes’ lush and romantic acoustic piano solo. Valdes also appears on the up-tempo, polyrhythmic “My Rumba,” which swirls Girón’s snappy guitar melody, with Harp’s bright trumpet harmonies and a subtle, dancing cello. Another highlight is a bright Latin jazz re-imagining of Michael Jackson’s classic “Another Part of Me,” an explosive ensemble jam – featuring female vocals on the hook – that allows Girón to let loose and tap into his passions for a multitude of genres, including pop and rock.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Born in Bogota, Girón grew up listening to his dad’s Spanish guitar albums but gravitated to rock when he taught himself the guitar at age 16. His passions shifted from Metallica and Iron Maiden when he saw the renowned Colombian classical guitarist Roberto Martinez playing classical guitar on TV. By age 17, seeking a more solid foundation, Girón began his classical guitar studies in the School of Music Luis A. Calvo in Bogota under the direction of Humberto Franco. Later, he studied music at the Pedagogica Nacional University, where he took classes with the great Colombian guitarist and composer Gentil Montana. His studies there included flamenco guitar and modern harmony with Martinez – three years after he first saw him play on TV! Girón also attended Great Lectures of Classical Guitar instructed by Eduardo Fernandez, Leo Brower, Tomas Patterson and Alirio Diaz, among other great maestros. After a stint in the Colombian Army, where he played music for many parties, he launched his professional career – which included recitals in well-known halls and theaters in Bogota, along with great performances of Colombia’s folk music.
“15 years after moving to Florida from his native Colombia, and ten years after putting out his first classical recording to have something to sell at a Vivaldi Concerto, Daniel Girón is emerging as a bright light on the new flamenco scene. Even as we hear the influences of his idol Paco De Lucia and more contemporary masters like Ottmar Liebert and Jesse Cook, Girón creates a fresh niche for himself by caressing his core melodic guitar sound with dynamic elements that draw from numerous traditions, including classical, pop, rock and jazz. The harmonies he incorporates, and the brilliant work of Chuchito Valdez, Jackson Harp and Eduard Teregulov, help bring Girón’s artistry to a higher level. But there’s no doubt that even without those gorgeous textures, Girón’s brilliant guitarisma could transport listeners to beautiful places in the heart all on its own. Marking the arrival of an important new artist, Prisma is truly one of the best independent instrumental recordings of the year”. – Jonathan Widran