Celebrating over 50 Years in Flamenco
$45/Premiere Seating (1st 3 rows); $25/General Admission
Discounted ticket package for all three Flamenco Festival events at Kuumbwa.
Doors: 7:30 PM
This concert is a celebration of David Serva’s foundational influence on the flamenco community of the Bay Area. Presented as a part of the 8th Annual Bay Area Flamenco Festival, Serva will be joined by a group of Gypsy musicians and dancers from Spain including Jose Galvez “El Duende”, Kina Mendez, and Luis de la Tota.
A Bay Area native who has lived and worked in Spain as a professional flamenco guitarist for most of his life, Serva has built a singular style on the artistic legacy of his maestro, Gypsy guitarist Diego del Gastor (1908-1973), one of the most important flamenco artists of the 20th century.
Serva began playing clubs in Madrid and Marbella in the early 70s, while pursuing a career internationally as a soloist. He has accompanied such historical figures of flamenco as Juan Talega, Manolito de Maria, La Perla de Cadiz, Anzonini del Puerto and Fernanda de Utrera, Manuel Agujetas, Miguel Funi, Manolete, Mario Maya, and Blanca del Rey, as well as younger figures such as Joaquin Ruiz, Soledad Barrios, and Pepe Torres de Moron. He has played in Flamenco nightclubs and festivals all over Spain and has participated in the Bienal del Arte Flamenco de Sevilla with Gypsy flamenco artists from the towns of Moron and Lebrija. He has made several recordings with with the Agujetas family as well as with Antonio Vizarraga and Rafael Jimenez “El Falo”. Serva was also the stage guitarist for original production of the Broadway musical, Man of La Mancha and was lead guitarist for several years for the acclaimed company “Noche Flamenca.” Most recently he was the subject of the documentary film Gypsy Davy that sold out the Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theater at last year’s Jewish Film Festival.
A graduate of Berkeley High, Serva (AKA David Jones) left home at 15 and started playing folk music with his friends in cafes along Telegraph Avenue. The music scene in Berkeley at the time was rich and eclectic and David was exposed to it all, hanging out at clubs on San Pablo Avenue listening to the likes of local blues legend K.C. Douglas. It was there that he was introduced to the flamenco guitar and soon began performing with Los Flamencos de la Bodega at the old Spaghetti Factory in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood as well as in East Bay clubs like Berkeley’s Cabale and the old Freight & Salvage.
In the summer of 1962 on his second trip to Spain, David arrived in a small Andaluz pueblo outside Sevilla called Morón de La Frontera where he met Gypsy guitar maestro Diego del Gastor and was taken under his wing. Serva shared the down-home, pueblo style playing he learned from Diego with a generation of Bay Area guitarists and flamenco artists during his stints back home where he was a star attraction in the flamenco room of the old Spaghetti Factory during its heyday in the sixties.
“Serva is the Godfather of the Berkeley scene,” explains guitarist Kenny Parker (AKA Keni “El Lebrijano”), “He was one of the absolute pioneers, and I respect him because he did this …years ago when it wasn’t easy, under Franco .. when Spain wasn’t so attractive to tourists. He’s the one who has made the most inroads there. He has influenced a whole bunch of people.”
For Serva, the influence of Diego’s playing on his own work had never been a matter of playing his falsetas note-for-note or in slavish imitation of his style. “I’ve always made up my own stuff.” says Serva. “I’ll play two chords of tarantas and start making up a falseta. I’ll hear other guitarists, and I may like somebody else’s stuff but I’ve always done my own variations.” By the early 1970s, he was already creating a more personal sound in his solo playing, albeit one grounded in his own synthesis of Diego’s style. “I’m a classical in the flamenco sense,” he once told a Madrid radio interviewer, “but I don’t think I’ve lagged behind. A little to the side, but not behind.”
David has always seen singing as “the quintessential element of flamenco,” and tonight’s concert highlights his unique skill as an accompanist. His solo playing is also intriguing as is evident from his CD Son Gitano en America. Woven into the fabric of his renderings of traditional flamenco forms are musical quotations from Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. The compositions recall Keith Jarrett’s improvisations with Gospel, classical and Middle themes in his solo concerts. But even with these lyrical evocations, the spirit of Morón is never far away.
Program notes based on articles by Carl Nagin with edits by Nina Menéndez