What flamenco is NOT
Real name: Stephen Paul
He says the name "Esteban" was given to him by Segovia during
master classes in Spain, because Steven was hard to pronounce.
His website describes the music as: "Original compositions or
arrangements of songs from the past... classical or flamenco...
world... ethnic fusion or jazz... folk songs or bossa nova...
Esteban is the virtuoso for the new global awareness." After
five appearances on the Home Shopping Network, Esteban managed
to sell over 50,000 albums. My first impression on hearing some
of the more Spanish sounding titles was that he fits neatly
into the same general musical genre as Armik. His middle of the
road, supermarket style guitar albums, with easy listening
arrangements of evergreens like "Unchained Melody", and "Don't
Cry For Me Argentina" are nice if you like that sort of thing.
You will not be disappointed if you are looking for a sweet
Xmas present for your grandmother to replace her worn out
Richard Clayderman records.
To be fair, he does actually play some earthy flamenco solos on
his album "Flamenco Y Rosas". The "Sevillanas" is sort of OK,
and his "Bulerias" is not hard to listen to, even though I had
trouble following the compás. It's such a pity the rest of the
album wasn't as honest. The other flamenco sounding titles like
"Malagueña", "Tango Flamenco" and "Guajiras" were a bit of a
letdown for me because they were nothing more than stylized
classical guitar arrangements with flamenco titles. "Flamenco
Wind" had a distinct Strunz & Farah feel about it. This is
a pretty piece, but it could have been called "Bermuda Wind" if
blind Freddie was listening to it through headphones. It takes
a generous stretch of the imagination to hear anything even
remotely flamenco-ish in it.
This unlikely commercial success, naturally enough, has smoked
out critics. "Every real musician I know in town just can't
stand him," says Eric Bart, a Phoenix jazz guitarist, with a
sneer. "He's an entertainer, not a musician. It's the worst,
most pandering watered-down Muzak." (In his defense), Esteban
says he has never heard of Mr. Bart. "I play for the masses,"
Esteban goes into the non-flamenco sin bin, not because of any
real fault of his own, but because CD reviewers and the general
public like to refer to him as a flamenco guitarist and his
style as flamenco. Shame on them. If you like easy listening
style guitar evergreens, you will be delighted. If you want
real flamenco my advice is, "Don't go
As a footnote, it is
worth mentioning that Mr Paul had a
serious automobile accident in 1980 and
suffered nerve damage to his spine and
to his hands. To his credit, he
obviously overcame this setback and got
on with his life.