That he was a great guitarist is a given. For those who did not have the opportunity to see him live all that’s left to hear him by are the numerous records he has put out, and some of the works he has participated in.
My first introduction to him and his style of playing was with the guitar trio with Al Di Meola and John Mclaughlin, Friday Night in San Francisco, back in high school. That was about 20 years ago. Back then, I simply thought that he was a monster. How could anyone play that fast without a pick?
My fascination, and continuing love for flamenco music started and continues to this day because of his guitar style. In fact, I grew up knowing only him among flamenco artists. But as more and more flamenco guitarists became noticed, no doubt in no small part due to his influence, I not only got exposed to other great sounds, but I realized just how wide and how big an influence he really was, and is.
I think fellow flamenco guitarist Manolo Sanlucar said it best in a Youtube interview video: “Those who know nothing about flamenco adore him, and those who do, worship him.”
He is credited as the first to truly bring flamenco to the world stage, and to expand the role of the flamenco guitar as a solo instrument. Yet he kept faithful to the rhythms and the accompaniment role which are fundamental in making flamenco what it is.
And I almost tore apart my own guitar while listening to him play his. Hahaha.
Vaya con Dios, Paco.