Simply sublime. What else can you say? From the man who literally wrote the definitive word on Flamenco technique, comes a work showing the full expanse of his personal creative method. Juan Martin is one of the most iconic names in Nuevo Flamenco. Somewhere, down the line, his lifelong interest in art and painting (owing a lot to him being a dedicated painter himself) spurred him to reimagine what you could do with such a style, to begin exploring sound much like a painter would use palettes and brushwork to discover new ways to hone their art. Painter In Sound is the culmination of that experimentation.
Taking literal inspiration from some of his favorite works of art, Juan would immerse himself in the paintings trying to draw emotions and melodies from these same paintings. Musical sketches of sorts, he’d take those musical line drawings and worked with New Age giant Mark Isham to express the colors and contours his own guitar couldn’t quite reach. Mark Isham would add a gorgeous sense of melancholia through electronic means, using treated saxophones, synthesizers, and digital sequencers. It’s a distinct collaboration that allowed Juan to play less yet show a lot more, in a way that was maybe alien or ran counter to anything being performed in his musical world. He did so by doing it in a way that still rings as timeless and picture perfect, by capturing the exact tone of what drew him to go that route: these gorgeous, painted masterworks.
Trying to show how much we as musicians can stand to learn from that other art form, the music you hear on Painter In Sound, when attempting to capture the mood of each actual painting, really hits home how certain playing techniques need to be set aside to capture true emotion in music. For Juan it all began with playing guitar at Pablo Picasso’s 90th birthday celebration, there imagining sound as shapes and colors, he had an a-ha moment and realized that all these other instruments and moods presented endless possibilities, all one needed was the courage to learn something new.
“Guernica”, a song you’ll hear on the album, was the first song he created exploring this new thought process. Dissonant, and deeply impressionistic, Juan’s guitar work perfectly captures the despair, heft, and brutality found in Picasso’s own masterpiece. The beauty of Painter In Sound is the musical expression Juan draws out of these masterpieces, perhaps showing you them in a different light, or presenting you their emotional weight accurately, for the first time. David Hockney’s “The Diver” never has felt as refreshing as it does when you lay the needle on Side A and admire the beautiful full-color album cover picture as it plays behind you. In the end, it’s a gorgeous, simple idea: translating painting to music. But, in the hands of a master, we all know that’ it takes is something simple (maybe still life) to make their own masterwork.
Mark’s use of synthesizers, sequencers, soprano saxophone and trumpet extend my colour palette greatly. The feeling of width, space and of shimmer comes through the synths and the soprano saxophone provides beautiful tone and a sad melodic feel helping to bring out the mood of the painting.
I have thought on these pictures since 1971 and now I feel they are ready for you to hear. In the end it is simply painting translated into music.Juan Martin, from liner notes to Painter In Sound.