strings of hits
Ken Hoffman picks guitar hero Ottmar Liebert's brain ahead of flashy flamenco Houston show
It wasn’t on my list of questions, but before we hang up the phone, I have to ask German-born, internationally top-selling Flamenco guitarist Ottmar Liebert, son of a German-Chinese father and Hungarian mother …
“How come you have no accent? You could be the TV weatherman in Iowa and no one would ever guess.”
Liebert laughs — also with not a trace of accent, “When I was in fifth or sixth grade in Cologne (Germany), my English teacher was an American woman from Detroit. A bunch of us became friends we her. She explained Frank Zappa lyrics to us. She was great. So that’s the reason that I have less of an accent. My friends tell me that I say the word ‘noodle’ funny.”
Liebert and his band, Luna Negra, will bring their unique brand of Nouveau Flamenco, to the intimate Dosey Doe Big Barn on Sunday, November 18. It’s the final show of their 2018 tour. Come when you wish, but all plates must be off the table when Liebert takes the stage. I’ve attended dozens of shows at Dosey Doe: This is the first time I’ve seen the “no plates on table” law laid down. I ask Liebert, “You are aware that Dosey Doe presents a lot of country singers, right?”
“I’m aware,” he says. “We’ve played there a few times. I can tell by the gun and musical instrument store next door.”
Like most kids growing up in Germany in the ’60s and ’70s, Liebert dreamed of megawatt rock ‘n’ roll, but thanks to his mother being a considerate neighbor, he was handed an acoustic guitar early on.
“I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to play electric guitar because we lived in a tiny apartment,” he recalls. “We didn’t have a telephone until I was about 12. We got our first stereo system around that time. We didn’t get our first TV until then, either. My grandparents moved up to a color TV and we got their old black and white TV. I think I was fortunate to have to play with LEGO and draw and play with other things rather than watch TV.”
He finally got his electric guitar at 17 and began rocking out in Cologne, eventually making his through Asia, settling in Boston a few years later. In 1986, he helped a friend move cross-country to Santa Fe. Liebert took one look around and he stayed, too.
“I really fell in loved with Santa Fe, not just the location but the cultural mix going on. There were so many things happening in the arts. For a tiny city, Santa Fe has its own world-class opera and orchestra. Foreign movies premiered there. Obscure Hong Kong movies play in Santa Fe first,” he says.
Liebert took the rock ‘n’ roll song formula and applied it to his own blend of Flamenco music, tinged with elements of Mexican and Arabic music. He calls it Nouveau Flamenco, a new age twist on traditional Spanish Flamenco. His first album, Nouveau Flamenco, went multi-platinum in 1990. He has recorded 25 albums since, breaking records for guitar album sales worldwide.
His latest album, the Complete Santa Fe Sessions, is really a do-over, a literal make good of an album he recorded nearly a decade ago.
“I originally recorded the Santa Fe Sessions in 2001 with an 8-piece band that I had toured with. There were 12 tracks, but I just never quite loved it. Recently, I realized that the album had never been released digitally, and all the CDs were sold out. I thought maybe I could reconsider that material. I could take a new approach to it. Maybe I didn’t get it right the first time. This time it really came together. This is the album I wanted all along. Also, I discovered that I had recorded 15 songs back then, so I could add the three that were left off the original. That’s why I call the new album the Complete Santa Fe Sessions.”
Ottmar Liebert performs at Dosey Doe Big Barn located at 25911 I-45 N. in The Woodlands. Dinner service starts at 6 p.m. Sow starts at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $98 to $158, including a three-course dinner.