Almost two years after Enrique Morente’s untimely death and a whole six years after the last release, Estrella Morente has released her third album, Autorretrato. There is no way I can be objective about this album: I love her music and I was lucky enough to get tickets to the show in Madrid where many of the tracks were showcased.
Autorretrato, or Self-portrait, is actually a very good name for the album, because despite the fact that the driving force behind the whole thing was Enrique, and despite the fact that there are many collaborations with other artists, what really strikes me is how much of Estrella there is here beyond the voice, the style and the idiosyncrasy those that know her well are already familiar with. First off, she had a hand in writing well over half the songs on the album. Second, after her father’s death it was her that worked out with luminaries such as Paco de Lucía, Tomatito, Michael Nyman and Pat Metheny just how the album was going to sound.
The album kicks off with a Pregón, or Hawker’s Cry, set to music by Michael Nyman. I’m not really sure that it works having been in love with the a capella version of this song for years. But this was Estrella’s way of saying “thank you” to Nyman for the marvellous “Le Di A La Caza Alcance”. Pure Poetry in the strictest sense of the expression. The words are by St John of The Cross. The music is Nyman’s. It’s basically his Requiem, which, as he said, he didn’t realise was an unfinished piece until he heard Estrella sing this. Here are both pieces so that you can judge for yourselves.
Doesn’t sound too much like a Flamenco album if we look at it like that.
Promises are made to be kept. Paco de Lucía made one to Enrique. “I will play guitar for Estrella when she finds the Seguirillas she wants to sing.” She found them. She wrote them. He kept his promise and the result is breathtaking. Here, perhaps more than anywhere else on this album we understand just how far Estrella has come. She has always been a fine singer, she’s always nailed it. But maybe at times she’s sounded too young or too innocent of life’s harder, more unpleasant side to really deal with the more difficult palos. Not any more. Her bulerías with Tomatito on guitar duties are also breathtaking. Here are both:
There are collaborations with Ketama that stray somewhere beyond the realms of the strictly Flamenco. There are Sevillanas and Habaneras with Vicente Amigo that stay well within the bounds. There is a glorious incursion into strictly Caribbean territory with Alain Pérez at the helm. And there is so much more.
This is an album to cherish. To be felt and understood by so many way beyond the frontiers of Flamenco as we have striven to describe it on these pages. An album that makes a mockery of any attempt to define the essence of this genre and that yet somehow manages to distil it.
I will post only one more track. A tribute to Lola Flores. A song that touched a nerve with all who were lucky enough to see the show I mentioned above. A song that demonstrates that although Estrella is bound to take her art to places that are far beyond anything that ever went before, she knows where she comes from and she knows just how much those that came before her did to free up and enliven the genre.