Santa Maria Sun

January 23, 2009

The following article was posted on January 13th, 2009, in the Santa Maria Sun – Volume 9, Issue 44

Rhythm of the night

A flamenco ensemble headlines PCPA’s evening fundraiser


Releasing notes
Chris Burton Jácome performs with his wife Lena Jácome as part of the Chris Burton Jácome Flamenco Ensemble. Chris’s music has been widely acclaimed and has even been used in feature films

Some songs seem to pulse with the very rhythm of life itself, creating a soundtrack for reality, whether slow and dramatic, loud and chaotic, happy, melancholy, or meditative. If you’re Chris Burton Jácome, your soundtrack has an exhilarating little kick. As flamenco guitarist Jácome’s fingers fly, they flick out notes one by one, which string together to create an intoxicating melody. The process seems natural to Jácome, but playing guitar wasn’t always on his mind.

Jácome was taking classes toward a degree in electrical engineering when he realized he was following the wrong path. His calculus and computer programming courses weren’t as exciting as the music classes he was taking as electives.

The day came when he was assigned to write a complicated computer program.

“I thought, ‘I am in the wrong class,’” he said.

At the same time, he was asked to write a piano piece for one of his music classes.

“I was much more excited about that,” he remembered. “I realized I was enjoying those music classes much more than my engineering requisites.”

So he followed his musical calling. But getting through his studies at the University of Arizona had its own challenges.

“Every week you had to perform in front of your peers,” he said. “And they would just tear you apart because they all know how to play the classical piece you’re performing, and they all think they can play better than you—and sometimes they can. It’s very competitive.”

The reward came at the end of his senior year when his recital drew a standing-room-only crowd of friends and supporters. Representing a change from his performances in front of his peers, this show drew an audience packed with people seeking the pure enjoyment of listening to him play—not to critique or judge. Thus, Jácome found his love of performing.

He also found his love of flamenco. His electric guitar teacher introduced him to the genre, but Jácome—a fourth-generation Mexican-American who grew up listening to country and top 40 tunes—is hard pressed to explain why he connects with the music.

“It’s like trying to explain why you like your favorite song,” he said. “Maybe it goes down to a cellular level, and maybe it’s a vibration that works well with the vibration of your being.”

If that’s the case, Jácome has some good vibrations—and some well-tuned vibrations at that.

Since he first started playing guitar in 1986, Jácome studied with some of the greatest flamenco performers while living in Sevilla, Spain. That list includes Miguel Aragón, Manolo Franco, Ethan Margolis, Juan del Gastor, Juan Amador, Juana Amaya, Enrique Robles, Segundo Falcón, and Cristo “El Francés.” Since Jácome’s return from Spain, he’s been performing in more than 200 shows a year.

His music can be heard in scores for the Emmy Award-winning PBS television special Flamenco and on TV shows like Kyle XY and Greek. Jácome’s flamenco version of the Christmas classic, “Joy to the World,” was included in Coldwater Creek Catalogue’s 2004 Christmas CD. Jácome can also be heard as the featured soloist in the movie soundtrack of 9/tenths.

Even with so much exposure, Jácome’s greatest accolade remains an appreciative audience.

While preparing for a performance in New York City with Calo Flamenco, the flamenco dance ensemble he co-founded with Martin Gaxiola, Jácome didn’t know what to expect.

“Then the stage manager knocked on the door and told us there was a line around the block,” he said. “Chills went through us.”

In the end, the venue had to turn away about 100 people. Jácome said he was proud to be part of the company, helping to grow it.

“It was a phenomenal experience, but even though it was music that I composed, it doesn’t do anything without these people, these dancers, who put their heart and souls into it,” he said.

Reflecting on his career, Jácome admits he’s accomplished a lot, but as he heads back to the studio to record his latest CD, he also allows that he’s not finished.

“There’s still lots more things to do,” he said.

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