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NEW AGE MUSIC REVIEW : Liebert’s Nouveau Flamenco

Chalk up another overnight show-biz success story. Ottmar Liebert, who appeared at the Strand Thursday night, has moved in little more than a year from a virtual unknown to an act whose Nouveau Flamenco music can generate four sold-out performances at the Redondo Beach venue.

When Liebert’s first recording (privately produced in Santa Fe) began to generate radio airplay in early 1990, he received a phone call from a KTWV staffer asking who he was: “We just added five of your songs to our play list, and we don’t know who you are.”

Since then, Liebert’s blending of flamenco-styled rhythms, Gypsy-like melodies and New Age unobtrusiveness has become a highly successful commercial commodity. His performance Thursday, in fact, had the style and manner--and, at times, too much of the attitude--of a top-level performer.

Only once did he mumble, and then incoherently, the names of his musical associates. And he never deigned to identify any of his musical pieces.

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As it turned out, it wouldn’t have made much difference. Liebert’s songs were virtually indistinguishable from one another. What appeal they had was clearly defined by the number of superficial elements that had been borrowed from more emotionally potent flamenco sources.

Too often the pieces took the same path: a rubato opening melody from Liebert--one which allowed him to display his fast but not always accurate fingering work--followed by a lengthy middle section with snappy, Latin-styled rhythms and, finally, a return to the melody. But the rhythms supported no improvisation, no expansion of the theme, nothing more than pulse-like repetitions.

It seems apparent that Liebert has added just enough of an original cosmetic touch to his music to tap into what appears to be a growing commercial appetite for acoustic instrumental music. But Nouveau Flamenco is going to have to add considerably more substance to its style if it intends to be anything more than a flash in the pan.


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