Guitar Recital By Diego Barber

Diego Barber, born on July 13, 1978 in Lanzarote, is one of the greatest exponents of the guitar at international level.

“..known for the grandeur and majesty of his guitar style. The impressive dynamics and exquisiteness of Diego Barber’s expression are deeply rooted in an extraordinary technique.”
All About Jazz. 

“Barber’s style is beautiful, his fingers fly lightly over the fretboard.”
Down Beat Magazine. 

“Diego Barber is a harbinger of things to come, and the beginning of a brilliant career for someone who has all the potential to make a difference in modern music.”
Michael G. Nastos, Billboard. 

Barber and Taborn deliver a grand epic in four parts. This is music with a cerebral punch through the complexity of the patterns of its interaction, while also forging a lifeline that goes directly to the heart through the beauty of the music presented. One of the best things I’ve heard all year. Pick of the week.”

Evcn eight years ago, when we still lived in the UK a concert by an artist of this level of performance would have been held in a provincial city-centre theatre such as The Bridgewater Hall or The Stoller Hall in Manchester. There´d have been dimmed lights, perfect acoustics and sound desk technicians to ensure the sound levels remained accurate and pristine. There would have been at least 2,000 in the audience. The glossy programme we´d have bought on the night would have cost a fiver, or maybe even a tenner. Our seats would have been elevated and plush in which to read our programme beforehand to see what music was to be played and we would have enjoyed a great, unobstructed view of the subsequent concert. For that, the admission would have been circa fifty notes each. The forty minute journey there could have taken anything from twenty five to sixty minutes and would have seen us parking the car in the underground car park, and putting in a fiver to the machine on exit, about two hours later. The slow egress from that car park would add about twenty minutes to our journey home through the city centre streets of Manchester with young already – drunks on the pavements ´looking for the heart of a Saturday night´ as Tom Waits might have it..

Petrol included, the night would have therefore cost in excess of 120 quid, without a meal

Last Saturday, having already purchased our tickets on line at 15 euro each, our plan originally was to take the romantic water taxi from Puerto Calero to where it would have deposited us at the harbour in Puerto Del Carmen, only fifty yards from the Fondeadero Theatre where the concert was to be held.

Alas, the water taxi was cancelled due to unusual storm conditions on the high seas so instead, as deep black clouds rolled in on the evening, we set off to drive over the vineyards and the bodegos of Le Geria, where the cloud shapes ands shafts of a blindingly red setting sun painted abstract art on the dark picon and bright green leaves of the vines and the whitewashed walls of the tiny cottages dotted over the vast basin-like expanse that rolls away to the mountains in the distance, constantly changing hue before our eyes.

The problem with this was that Puerto Del Carmen is, even at this time of year, and this year maybe more than ever, a very busy, bustling tourist resort and car parking spaces, nee, even car parks, are at a premium. However we shop at Lidl every week on the edge of town so knew the short cut roads down to the free harbour car park, although we held very little hope of finding a space. We must have timed our arrival well, as we found a space on the car park just across the road from the theatre.

We had arrived at six for an eight o´clock concert and so wandered over to the harbour-side restaurant, La Valeta, and watched the clouds evaporate as the sun settled down under the duvet of the mountains whilst we ate our meal-

We had dined here once before a few months ago when we attended a book launch of Palabra Para Todas (Words For All), a collection of poetry celebrating women, which we reported on these pages and that remains in our archives.

The waiter, who last time had sung along with every song on ´the jukebox´ was again on smiley form and our tapas meal(s) of garlic prawns, fried goats´ cheese with jam, and a plate of chips between us was fresh, filling and fabulously presented. It was aided and abetted by a cold draft beer before I hit the non-alcoholic hard stuff, and Dee, my wife had dos copas de vino blanco seco. I added an apple tart and ice cream, and cream, dessert and we finished our coffees after about ninety minutes of watching the lights of the town come on to pierce the darkness. This created an incredible view of the boats on the harbour and the houses built onto the cliff face that encircles it. It was an extraordinary sight to see all the lights come ass darkness fell.

Our waiter offered us a complimentary´shot´ (chupito) so Dee ordered a Bailey´s and I asked for a Brandy, which turned out not to so much a small shot as a whole arsenal, so big and full was the glass ! I drank it slowly, before we settled our bill at fifty five euros.

We wandered across the road, pausing for a couple of minutes to watch what a looked to be a pretty ferocious boules match taking place on the floodlit court.

On entering the theatre we showed our tickets on our mobile screen, for scanning by the young lady at the door and in we went to a room laid out with a hundred plastic chairs lined in rows in front of a small and only slightly elevated stage. There was no programme, not even a stencilled playlist, and the chairs were not numbered but we found two together near the back.

We had only been in our seats a minute or two before we were given a brief introduction to Diego Barber, who in turn came to the stage, and after prolonged and rapturous applause, made an introduction of his own. He was obviously very proud that sitting, just behind us, in the audience was the timple player extraordinaire, Tony Corujo.

It was then straight into the music, but because there was no programme, and because we couldn´t understand whatever Diego might have said in Spanish by way of introduction, and because my knowledge of classical music only sometimes allows me to recognise the tune and rarely affords me the luxury of being able to identify it or its composer, expect the following classical music to be unlike any other you have ever read.

The concert was segued into four separate parts that I can only identify for you from the scenes I envisaged in my imagination as I listened.

The first part I shall call Sidetracks, a title that resonates with me and permeates my love of music. This section told, through the strings of a guitar, of a young guitar troubadour wandering from town to town in search of a gig. The towns thrilled him, all hustle and bustle and a bit of conversation, but the journeys in between he seemed to love even more. Wandering through fields, by river banks, through mountains and valleys and down to the sea, these were journeys of pastoral delight and were full of harmonics, impeccably but joyously played.

The second act I called Dances, because the music her reminded me of some of what we hear in the church courts and town hall squares here on the island. There were echoes of folk-lore and the gentle stroll of the first section became a hop. skip and a jump of delight.

Diego had now played two sets, each of twenty minutes or more each, and had not only been note-perfect but had given his guitar a voice with which to speak to us and the mucho applauso from the audience told him we were listening intently.

This trio of, music, man and guitar mutually enhanced each other…,.great compositions, great playing and great instrument makes a great sound

The third set, which I have entitled Detours, seemed to have Diego exploring where he and his guitar and this music might go, and what it might do when it got there. I called this section Detours because he often seemed to stray off his linear narrative of music to explore something that had caught his eye, or his ear, I suppose. Nevertheless he always found his way back to the main road to lead us on to his fourth set.

This was the closing section of the performance and the one I found the most delightful, and which I shall call Echoes.

I certainly don´t want to offend Diego, or any fans who hold a precious love for classical music, but in this section I suddenly let go of the fact that what I was hearing was, I think, classical music and instead simply listened to that guitar offer me sound-bites that sounded familiar to the music I most love. To me, this was Segovia, John Williams, little bits of Mark Knopfler and Willie Nelson, and most importantly to me, Betsy From Pike a guitar track written and performed by John Stewart in the seventies. I don´t remember the thought hitting me at the time but I would later remark to my wife that I had hugely enjoyed the entire concert but his fourth set had put me in mind of the original string band music era, which saw musicians like Martin, Bogan And Armstrong give us renditions of Lady Be Good, The Barnyard Dance and The Ice-cream Freezer Blues.

I recommend, whether you are a country or classical music fan, a rocker or a rootsy. to find a copy of You´d Better Get It While You Can, Steve Goodman´s tribute to that string band, and then get hold of an album by the trio and have a listen to some of the music that classical music begat.

A very genuine standing ovation from everyone in the audience brought back to the stage the man who had given me four sets, Sidsetracks, Dance, Detours and Echoes in a seventy five minute performance that was now extended by another five, and I´m proud to say I recognised the piece as one of my favourites by Bach, and I know that for certain because I recognised his name in Diego´s introduction

We arrived home in time for Blankety Blank, a recording of Strictly and Match Of The Day, and so to bed at 1.15a.m. with airs and graces of Bach and others drifting me away to sleep.

The whole night had cost us less that 100 euros or ninety pounds, which included meal, drinks, travel expenses and and dmission tickets for two that would have cost us at least 50 percent more than that for a concert of similar quality in the UK.

We didn´t get plush theatre seats, programmes or cd or other merchandise on sale but we got a seat beside the millionaires´ yachts moored in the harbour as the lights came on along the cliffs as we had our pre-theatre meal.

And that was just the start of a wonderful evening, that also saw us enjoy an incredible virtuoso performance by a wonderful guitar player.

I certainly came away acknowledging that Jazz Time, as it invariably, was right in saying that “Diego Barber approaches the guitar with extraordinary precision and fluidity and with great sensitivity…he is adept at lending an air of mystery and mischief to embedded melodies´.

How can they say all that is so few words, I hear you ask.

I have no idea I! you hear me reply.