Here’s another review from Norman Warwick, after he visited Manrique’s El Almacen in Arrecife to enjoy a concert.
Two and a half years after settling on the island we are delighted to be still finding new, to us, venues for disparate art forms in exhibition or in concert, introducing wonderful new, to us, artists. We were fortunate in Rochdale in the UK that our small town offered similar diversity in the arts but usually a major concert would mean an hour’s journey into Manchester, ill-lit and dangerous underground car parks, over-priced restaurants and event tickets that required a mortgage to pay for them. Seeing world stars like Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison was fantastic but it came at a high price.
Not so here on Lanzarote. With our pre-paid ten euro tickets in hand we set out from our home in Playa Blanca to Arrecife, a relatively long journey on the island but a beautiful trip at six o’clock on a March evening. We parked in the underground car park beside The Gran Hotel, finding enough parking space for even me to manoeuvre into. Up the stairs brought us out into a well lit corner of Parque Islas Canaries from which a web of narrow streets was spread out before us. As we approached the venue we stopped at a ‘waffle shop’ for a bite to eat. It reminded me so much of where Fonz and the gang used to hang out in Happy Days. The place was full of Spanish youngsters enjoying a milkshakes, chat up lines and big smiles and it had a lovely, safe atmosphere.
The Cic El Almacen is a seemingly tiny cinema on Calle Jose Betancort, but as we stepped through its portal we realised it was a typical Spanish building that was so much bigger on the inside. It was beautifully illuminated and the downstairs held a ‘workshop’ area, an intimate little bar and two exhibition rooms for visual arts.
The concert was being held up the stairs in what is most frequently used as a cinema, holding about seventy five people. It was full by the time the musicians came to the stage. Alexis Lemes and Javier Infante are each masters of their preferred instrument and have decided to explore together how Javier’s guitar and Alexis’ timple might sound in unison. Preview notes suggested they would examine ‘the art of listening’ and the concert revealed that meant listening by the musicians to each other as well the audience listening to them.
I don’t have too many reference points as yet for this kind of classical approach to music, but from the opening number, with its cascades and ripples of the timple and a double bass player, Ivanoff Rodriguez, stepping in as a special guest, adding fathoms of depth to both timple and guitar, I knew we were in for a concert of the highest quality.
Sometimes it was frenetic guitar strumming that allowed the timple to lend melody, and one particular rendition, with a ‘false’ ending and then a long guitar solo ‘outro’ led to loud calls of bravo from the audience.
Whilst there were familiar distinctive Spanish attitudes of longeurs and sunny outbursts, , I could also hear definite reminders of contemporary folk music like that played by Magna Carta which referenced its English traditions. There were even echoes of the Americana music I so love today. In the strumming and picking I was reminded of some of the jazz influences adapted by the late country music artist Steve Goodman, the timple seemingly redolent of the mandolin style of Jethro Burns, and the sounds of the string bands playing in America in the middle of the last century, with so many ‘open tunings.’ More up to date comparisons would be with Bert Jansch, late solo guitarist and one time member of Pentangle and maybe Lemes and Infante have even listened to the music of Bela Fleck And The Flecktones.
The three musicians often played with their eyes closed, seemingly transported to another place by the beautiful sounds they were making and were enjoying listening to as much as were the audience. A thoroughly deserved encore found timple and guitar engaged in a musical ‘shoot out at The Last Chance Saloon’, similar to that fought in the Duelling Banjos music from the film, Deliverance, summarising a concert that had delivered a cinematic soundtrack to island living. The players had delivered on their promise to ‘search for the beauty of sound, perfect harmony and risky improvisation.’
This is a new, and perhaps yet only temporary, union but examples of the individual playing of both Alexis and Javier can be found You Tube.
At around eleven pm, after buying a copy of Javier’s album Solo Session, we wandered back out into the side streets of Arrecife, and stepped into another Happy Days style diner – bar for a slow beer. Then, down into the car park, paid for the ticket and a moonlit drive home through the heart of the island that had inspired the music we had been listening to.
‘What a life, love,…what a life !’