Ottmar Liebert still a creative master

Published on August 22nd, 2017

Music is more than just playing notes. The creative musician is always looking to experiment, much like the scientist in the lab. When it comes to flamenco guitarist Ottmar Liebert, his new creations stem from that same desire.

“I wanted to do something different and see what happened,” said the guitarist who will perform on Sunday as part of Thornton Winery’s 2017 Champagne Jazz Concert Series. “I like to come up with a different palate for every album. The last one, ‘Waiting in Swan,’ was about the connection of flamenco and reggae which is a real historic connection and it is real important to see now because it’s important to show most great things come as collaborative efforts where a lot of people are going together.”

For Liebert, purity is not possible and it is not a good experience to look at one element by itself.

“Look at California cuisine, which is such a mix of Mediterranean elements,” he said. “People don’t realize it. For example, people think it’s an Italian thing to bring olive oil and vinegar together with bread but that was a New York restaurant thing.”

When it comes to the new music, there was an intentional drive to slow things down.

“I wanted to do something different especially since we are so bombarded with such high speed information,” he said. “If it’s not our phone, it’s someone else’s. For myself, I wanted to do something very slow and that’s why I came up with that clever title so no one would say this isn’t rhumba and took the pic of the snail to further warm people. It was fun because this is the one guitar I’m going to use and other than that anything goes.”

So, there was the push to slow the tempo down, but the album features a number of experimental items in the studio as well.

“I did stuff like altering the playback,” he said. “There’s a handy button that slows down the music to half speed and I recorded that and brought it back in and that’s the bass sounds that you hear. There are kick-drum sounds, and that’s just me banging on the guitar playing it back at half speed. I also did things that sound like a string quartet by taking chords I played on the guitar and reversing them. In flamenco, you have that short percussive attack and when you turn it around and when you cut it off it becomes a different sound.”

Part of the drive is to not just do the same thing over and over again.

“Some people just have the idea to do that same record again, do that flamenco again, and in the early days we were hearing that, but for our second album we added horn, changed the piano and the sound was different,” he said. “For me that has been what kept it interesting for me and even playing some of the same songs live every year we find a way to do it differently. Luckily, I have a lot of fans who like that and recognize that part of the song is different.”

Part of the challenge to him is that to play slow often means more melodic and more emotional.

“I remember it occurred to me several times listening to jazz or rock shredders, and it is clear that the attention is not there so after hearing two or three songs I didn’t need to hear any more,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get it that playing fast is not harder. A lot of the people who do it do not have a great song. Of course there are people who can do both and they are amazing. But in general not everybody gets it.”

He also doesn’t want to get too repetitive, either on stage or in the studio.

“I think as we get older we can’t do the same things,” he said. “There are some who I’ve listened to over decades and rather than change the material they would do the same solo they did 20 or 30 years ago. Every decade you need to change this or that or it’s going to sound like, ‘Oh he did that 20 years ago.’ There has got to be a way that you age and share something that works with our physical condition.”

He points to the legendary Miles Davis.

“Take a look at Miles, how he changed from the ‘50s to the ‘60s from that bee bop thing to what he was doing at the end, and I thought that was beautiful,” he said. “Everything for me is about the discovery of things.”


When:  6 p.m., Sunday, August 27

Where: Thornton Winery, Temecula

Admission: General admission $75, Gourmet supper $150

Information: Call 951-699-3021 or visit Website,


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