Enrique Morente was one of the greatest and most innovative flamenco singers of his generation. I was lucky enough to live in Granada in the early 90’s and see him sing dozens of times, and I’ve always said that that as good as his albums are, they’re nothing compared to seeing him live, especially if you happen to catch him with his long-time guitarist Pepe Habicuela.
He was controversial because after starting out as one of the most promising ‘purist’ singers he spent a lot of his life experimenting, and that of course pissed off the purists. But there’s so much to learn from his early records – I learned many of the more esoteric cantes by looking to his older records. And he recorded an album with Sabicas called ‘Nueva York/Granada’ very shortly before Sabicas died, that to me is one of the best cante records out there – they each seem to have brought out the best in the other.
Not all of Morente’s experiments were successful (in my opinion, anyway) but I think that this is true of most restless musicians, and the stuff that does work is pretty amazing. But there was no denying that Morente was a champion of cante and of cantaores, or that his singing technique was flawless and his knowledge of flamenco encyclopedic. I miss him already.
The Wikipedia article on him is pretty good, and you should search him on YouTube if you’ve never heard him sing.
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