The Santa Fe Sessions

Release Date: Feb 25th, 2003
Label: SSRI/Higher Octave
Artist: Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra
Album: The Santa Fe Sessions

Three years ago, Higher Octave Music rang in the new millennium with the release of Nouveau Flamenco 1990-2000 Special Edition, which celebrated the ten year anniversary of Ottmar Liebert’s legendary, double-platinum selling debut. That groundbreaking recording became the biggest selling guitar album of all time, not simply redefining Flamenco music for the modern age but creating a whole new genre of music which sparked a 1990s world music revival. Over the past twelve years, Liebert has become one of instrumental music’s most popular and compelling live performers around the world.

As the ensemble dynamics have developed with the revolving members of his band Luna Negra, Liebert has naturally taken many of his best-loved tunes to incredible new places. The Santa Fe Sessions, his latest Higher Octave release via his own label SSRI (Spiral Subwave Records International,) is an extraordinary studio recording which reflects the new, expansive live in concert character of ten classic tracks—including fresh guitar, percussion and horn parts. Liebert also blazes a trail into the future with two brand new compositions, the mystical, Brazilian flavored “Sao Paulo” and a Cuban spiced “Song for Pablo.”

The sheer size of Liebert’s touring ensemble these past few years—at one point the band included three guitarists, three drummers/percussionists, a bassist and a horn section—allowed for numerous new and exciting rhythmic and arrangement possibilities. “The songs have changed considerably with the new band configurations, and we took tunes that were three and a half minutes out to 15 with new parts, different ideas and expanded intros,” he says. “I’ve been wanting to document these new renditions for a while, and I felt that doing them in the studio would create a better sound quality than recording a new live album. I took ten songs that had changed significantly and created them from scratch, with the same spirit of fun and spontaneity that was part of the process on the originals.”

With the perspective of looking back over twelve years of tireless touring and fourteen studio recordings (including five on Higher Octave), Liebert also enjoyed chronicling his immense growth as a musician. “It’s like visiting a city like Paris various times,” he says. “Every few years you can go back and discover new things and revisit some older places that haven’t changed at all. But I’ve also changed in that time, so I’m going to see the world differently. From a playing standpoint, I think the Santa Fe Sessions’ versions are better than the original recordings, yet they were created with the same loose approach that we used on the old records. There’s always that spark that gets me excited. Dave Bryand, one of my early Luna Negra percussionists, was back for this record and as always, I’m working with (bassist) Jon Gagan, who has been with me from the start.”

The tracks on The Santa Fe Sessions beautifully reflect the idea of songs that are at once comfortable and warmly familiar, yet catch the ear and spirit in a whole new way. Among the highlights are the nearly nine minute opening rendition of “Snakecharmer” (originally from 1993‘s Grammy® nominated The Hours Between Night and Day), which moves from an ambient intro into a reflective ballad and then expands into a fiery, percussive celebration; the graceful coolness of “Heart Still/Beating” (from Nouveau Flamenco); brassy new attitudes for “Isla Del Sol” and “Dancing Under the Moon” (from 1991’s Grammy® nominated, gold selling Borrasca); the hypnotic and atmospheric ballad “Reaching Out 2 You” (from 1992’s gold selling Solo Para Ti); and a colorful yet faithful reworking of “Barcelona Nights,” the trademark song that launched Liebert’s career into the stratosphere in 1990.

Liebert’s incredible global success on a musical level often seems like a simple outgrowth of his cultural background and powerful wanderlust in his formative years. Born in Cologne, Germany to Chinese-German father and Hungarian mother, he began playing guitar at 11, and traveled extensively through Europe and Asia intent on fully absorbing each musical tradition he encountered. After pursuing his Rock and Roll dreams first in his native Germany and then in Boston, he abandoned the frustrations of the East coast and settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

By 1989, he had founded the first incarnation of his new band Luna Negra. Nouveau Flamenco began life as a self-produced local release called Marita: Shadows and Storms, copies of which local Indian artist Frank Howell distributed in his art galleries. When the record found its way to radio stations and began generating a buzz among programmers and an unprecedented response among listeners, Higher Octave Music picked it up and released a fully remastered version.

“I was honestly happy playing this music in hotels and restaurants in Santa Fe, and going in one year from doing that to opening for Miles Davis was a pretty intense jump,” he recalls. “Most shocking for me was to realize how many different people from so many diverse cultures embraced it. I still get letters from fans in Europe, South-America, Australia, and’s been a really gratifying experience. I’ve had the opportunity to play in a wide variety of cultural settings with musicians from around the world, and that has been a great experience, too.”

Liebert has since become one of the most successful instrumental artists of the past decade, thrilling audiences throughout the world and releasing a catalog of classic recordings, including the remix collection Euphoria (1995), the live album Viva! (1995), the double CD Opium (1996) and the classical-oriented orchestral album Leaning into the Night (1997). He wrapped up his decade with Epic with 2001’s Little Wing and came back to Higher Octave Music, releasing a lush album of lullabies called In the Arms of Love this past year. That recording reflects the solo side of Liebert, which he is intent on exploring further, even as he continues to record acoustic based band projects with Luna Negra. He is also committed to creating more recordings along the lines of Euphoria, featuring DJ mixes of his songs and incorporating world beat, dance rhythms, synthesizer and ambient sounds. In that vein Liebert hopes to release a CD to be entitled Nouveaumatic later in 2003.