Alameda Guitarist Flaunts Flamenco Tradition -- and Sales Figures

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Michaud and former Santana bassist reprise 2008 success in Sept. 19 concert

When Tomas Michaud last took the stage a year ago, the volunteers at Alameda's Rhythmix Cultural Works weren't quite ready for the reception awaiting the Bay Area's most unconventional Flamenco guitarist.

By the time the curtain was raised on Michaud and a cast that included former Santana bassist David Margen, the Rhythmix folks had long since conceded the aisle space along the venue's windowed brick walls to a sold-out gathering.

"At the risk of damaging Alameda's colloquial image, there are legions of insanely knowledgeable cosmopolitan music fans here," said Michaud, who will team with Margen and three other well-traveled musicians in a Sept. 19 Rhythmix Cultural Works concert featuring music from Beauty And Fire, Michaud's sixth and latest CD. "They just usually spend their money in San Francisco."

Michaud's previous CD, New World Flamenco Jazz (2004), sold more than 60,000 copies in a genre in which five-figure sales among U.S. artists are a rarity. But the longtime owner of Alameda's largest musical teaching institution, Starland Music Center, has never been one to adhere to Flamenco customs.

"Traditional Flamenco has violent rhythms that you can dance to," Michaud noted. "My music doesn't fit that mold. It's been infused with all these world sounds, like jazz, Middle Eastern percussion, that melodic Santana bass that David Margen patented and some really sultry cello. There's still quite a bit of gypsy influence, but it comes in the form of violin."

"You do a lot of traveling in an evening with Tomas," said Margen, a longtime Michaud collaborator. "It's fun to take the audience on that kind of journey."

Don Turney mans keyboards for the Sept. 19 concert, which features two percussionists: Brian Andres on a traditional drum set and Katja Cooper ­- perhaps the Bay Area's most renowned female practitioner of world percussion - on bongos and dumbek, an ancient goblet-shaped hand drum.

"After I first played with Tomas, I remember being hung up on words trying to describe the spirituality of his music to a friend," Cooper said. "Then I read an online review of Beauty & Fire that said the CD delivered the kind of sensation you'd get if you heard Santana and the Gypsy Kings jamming with a Moroccan house band after a warm Turkish bath and massage. And I thought, 'Wow - that pretty much captures it.' So I stole it."

What: A Night of Beauty And Fire, a CD release concert with Tomas Michaud
When: Saturday, September 19, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhythmix Cultural Center - 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda CA 94501
Tickets: $15 advance, $20 at the door
Advance Tickets Online:
Advance Tickets Walk-Up: Starland Music Center - 1631 Park Street, Alameda CA 94501 (510) 523-4797


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