Thanks to the age of globalisation, flamenco music is now popular all over Europe. There is no-one else in Europe embodying the Andalucian joie de vivre with such authenticity, virtuosity and geniality the way Rafael Cortés does. On his new album "Parando El Tiempo", his fifth to date, his astounding and unique musical style really comes into its own.
Rafael Cortés, who lives in Germany, is as quintessentially Essen by nature as he is Andalucian. He has his background to thank for that, a story common to many migrant children in the 60s. His grandparents moved to Germany during the Franco era and it was there that his parents got to know each other. "My father came from a Gitano clan in Granada and my mother from northern Spain. The families were incensed, the grandparents on both sides came out with prejudices and threats." As often is the case, the whole thing blew over and love won the day. Which is just as well for our story as it led to Rafael being born. Already as a small boy, during his many visits to Granada, his relatives became well aware of his talent: "All sorts of guitarists were coming up to me showing me things on the guitar and saying that I should practise them." In Granada, a place whose flamenco culture has been preserved in its purest form through oral tradition, Rafael found himself right at the source.It wasn't long until he discovered the playing of a certain Paco De Lucia who, at the time, was attracting attention for his work with John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola: "I realised there was another way of doing this, with totally different chords and scales. The curiosity this aroused has been with me ever since." In terms of role models for his playing, Cortés says there is no-one that stands out in particular. He tries to learn from everybody, for example his colleague El Macareno who he was taking intensive lessons with for a few years. His unique style of flamenco brings together touches of classical, Latin and jazz music. Already at the age of 14, one of his teachers let him go in the belief that there was nothing left to teach him. His career developed rapidly. In 1985, in keeping with his Ruhr area roots, his first public appearance was at the Carl colliery. Five years later, he took part in his first studio work and shortly afterwards composed the film score for "Der Strand von Trouville". Finally, in 1999, his first solo album "Eclipse De Luna" was released. Next came a series of albums, including the guest-studded "Gitanos del Agua" which was recorded in Madrid and featured Javier Baron and El Cigala among others. This was followed by a flamenco pop hit featuring the Spanish megastar Rosa. In addition to that, he had been teaming up along the way with huge stars like Domingo Patricio, Carles Benavent and Maria Serrano. In 2007 a dream came true: Rafael shared a stage with Paco De Lucia at the Leverkusen Jazz Festival. At this point, he had already been receiving standing ovations in his own right all over Europe and, so the story goes, Larry Coryell had even knelt and kissed his hands.
Time to take a step back, after such a stream of highlights some peace and quiet was called for. And that is exactly what Rafael Cortés has achieved with his new work: "Parando El Tiempo", the fifth in his his career, is his most exceptional album yet. "I now have my own home studio which allowed me to record day or night, whenever I felt like it – I could virtually stop time." In this way the 37 year-old guitarist could steer clear of any of the traditional formulas often adhered to in the flamenco genre.