Ñaco Goñi – Blues con los colegas
by JOSEP PEDRO
One of the best known harmonica players in Spain, Ñaco Goñi has been in the frontline of the blues scene in the country almost from its start, approximately 30 years ago. Grown out of the once celebrated musical neighborhood Prosperidad, his trajectory has been intimately linked to Madrid’s particular history, where he started out when he was about fifteen playing with older pioneers and friends like Malcolm Scarpa, Whisky David, and Tonky de la Peña (with whom he recorded the groundbreaking Blues Corner (Coquette Discs, 1987)-the first blues album in Madrid).
Announcing an ambitious project with three volumes (2006, 2012), this first double CD features Goñi playing with an extensive collection of musicians from different countries and generations, “that love the blues and have been playing since the late fifties.” With its focus on Madrid’s live music scene, which can be thought as a significant crossroads for musicians, the record sets off with “Betica Stomp,” a crude tour-de-force between Goñi’s fiery harmonica and Armando Marcé’s incessant drumming. This introduction, dedicated to a tavern in Prosperidad (Madrid), leads to a remarkable succession of songs with Ñaco playing with some of his long-time partners.
A sort of damned genious, Malcolm Scarpa is introduced first. In his particular rendition of “Little Laura,” a Sleppy John Estes classic, Scarpa displays his distinctive personality, perfectly backed by Christian Rannenberg’s rockin’ piano and Goñi’s intense blowing. Whisky David comes in next with the mellow “When My Babe Loves Me.” A Scottish vocalist and organist, David came to Spain with the Yardbirds and stayed around until his passing in 2011, leaving an important influence on the emerging pop and blues scenes. The record also remembers one of the classic Tonky Blues Band line-ups featuring “Necesitas mucha pasta,” a song that along with “Las ratas y yo” (J.Teixi Band), “Cosas que debo a Madrid” (Miguel Ríos), “Peña, peña, peña” (Ñaco y los Bluescavidas & Raimundo Amador) and “Dices que no tengo feeling” (Fede Aguado), helps to understand how blues is reinterpreted in Spanish. Most significantly, “Dices que no tengo feeling” and “Peña, Peña, Peña” both address the conflicts and implications of translating the blues to Spanish.
The first CD is completed with some powerful harmonica encounters: virtuoso Antonio Serrano (“Blues con los colegas”), Mingo Balaguer and Danny Boy (“Baby’s Boogie”). And contact with different styles: Amar Sundy’s African sounds on “Sadaka,” Tea’s blues-rock on “The Hunter,” and old-time, jazz inflected “I’m Crazy About You” with Miki Nervio y Bluesmakers. Finally, contact with current partners: electric Stevie Zee (“Bright Lights, Big City”), and acoustic Xulián Freire (“I’m a Stranger Here”).
The second CD holds some more highlights. “Circumstantial Evidence,” with Chicago-born singer Velma Powell, and a live version of “Every Day I Have the Blues” with George Jones, a New Orleans singer based in Munich, are among the most inspired. The worldwide contributions conclude with “Negro como un blues,” that counts with the participation of Argentinian blues pioneer Claudio Gabis, and famous songwriter Joaquín Sabina on vocals. Standing out between some correct, varied standard versions, “Vuelvo al foro” recuperates Madrid’s local identity feeling. With a contagious, humorous rhythm and “Kapo” Albuquerque’s singing, the song tells the story of someone who, despite being well in other places, enjoys his comeback to his neighborhood and city.
Of course, Ñaco Goñi’s personal harmonica style is present all throughout the record. His outstanding playing combines rhythm and melody, strength and sensitivity, and merges into a naturalized virtuosity that flows through winding roads and turns that concentrate feeling in bends, making the listener smile once he recognizes Goñi’s language. A modest, smiling character, Goñi has undertaken his definitive recording project in the best possible way. Blues con los Colegas, literally “blues with my buddies,” has consolidated his personal stature and contributions to blues in Spain while offering a significant map of its collective history.
Tracks: Betica Stomp, Little Laura; When my baby loves me; Las ratas y yo; Dices que no tengo feeling; Cosas que debo a Madrid; Sadaka; You don’t have to go; Blues con los colegas; I’m crazy about you; Baby’s boogie; Peña, peña, peña; Bright lights, big city; The hunter; I’m a stranger here; Thrill is gone; Get out my life; Talk to your daughter; Hey, hey; Lawyer Clark; Circumstantial evidence; T.V. Mama, Vuelvo al foro; Every day I have the blues; Hoochie coochie man; Negro como un blues; Eagle riddin’ Papa.
Personnel: Ñaco Goñi: harmonica; Armando Marcé: drums (1-3, 7, 9, 12, 13,17-19, 23-26); Malcolm Scarpa: vocals, guitar (2, 21); José Luis Martín “Josele”: bass (2, 4, 21), Christian Rannenberg: piano (2, 22); “Whisky” David Waterstone: vocals (3, 26), organ (3, 7, 17-19, 25, 26), harmonica (26); Flaco Barral: bass (3, 7, 13, 17, 22-26); “Kapo” Alburquerque: vocals (13, 24), guitar (3, 7, 13, 17, 20, 22-25); Tonky de la Peña: vocals, guitar (4), Francisco Simón: guitar (4); Pancho Company: drums (4); Javier Teixidor: vocals, guitar (5); Emilio Galiacho: piano (5); Daniel Montemayor: bass (5); Antonio Melgar: drums (5); Fede Aguado: vocals, guitar (6); Steve Jordan: drums (20, 21), congas (8), backing vocals (6); Miguel Ríos: vocals (7); Amar Sundy: guitar (7, 8), vocals (8); Edu “Big hands”: vocals, guitar (9); Phineas Sánchez: bass (9), Oscar González: guitar (9); Antonio Serrano: harmonica (10); Miki Nervio: vocals, kazoo (11,28); Miguel Alonso: guitar (11,28); Luis Tinaquero: guitar (11), banjo (28); Juan Tinaquero: double bass (11, 28); Alfonso Camarero “Plof”: washboard (11, 28); Mingo Balaguer: harmonica (12); Danny “Boy”: vocals, harmonica (12); Quique Bonál: guitar (12); Fernando Torres: bass (12); Raimundo Amador: guitar (13); Stevie Zee: vocals, guitar (14); Luca Frasca: organ (14); Paco Benítez: bass (14); Toni Jurado: drums (14); Jorge Muñoz: vocals, guitar (15); Kike Muñoz: guitar (15); Pedro Úbeda: bass (15); Luis Goñi: drums (15); Xulián Freire: vocals, guitar (16); Jeff Spinoza: vocals (17); Adrián Costa: vocals, guitar (18); Marcos Coll: harmonica (18); Jairo Zabala: guitar (18, 19), vocals (19); Javier Vacas: bass (18,19); Philip Guttman: vocals, harmonica (20), guitar (20, 22); Elvia Aguliar: organ (21); Velma Powell: vocals (22); Gaby Jogeix: vocals, steel guitar (23); George Jones: vocals (25); Salvador Domínguez: guitarra (26); Claudio Gabis: guitar (27); Joaquín Sabina: vocals (27); Alejo Stivel: backing vocals (27); Marcelo Fuentes: bass (27); Pedro Barceló: drums (27).
This review was originally published at All About Jazz