On Thursday and Friday nights, the forces of flamenco are unleashed at Tapas Papa Frita. The guitar slashes, the vocalist wails. At the center of the stage, the dancer pounds his heels and claps his hands. The customers--who come for the blood-red wine, the little plates of marinated mushrooms, the savory paella--bounce in their seats. On a good night, the polyrhythmic racket, which competes with the clatter in the open kitchen, can be ungodly. The Gypsies call the sound duende--a profound, almost devilish expression of soul.
Like many performers, the state's foremost male dispensers of flamenco-style duende have day jobs. Gypsies they are not. Guy Frankel, the guitarist and singer, works as a tour guide for the Pink Jeep Tours company in Sedona. Charles Calleros, the dancer, is associate dean of the Arizona State University College of Law. By day they lecture on red-rock geology and civil-rights law. By night, as Gaetano and Carlos, they raise duende at Tapas Papa Frita. If there can be a raucous Spanish restaurant on posh East Camelback Road, there can be jeep jockeys and contract experts who do flamenco. This is America. "SOME PEOPLE DO MUSIC. I play piano. But I've never heard anything like dancing. And flamenco! It's safe to say it's quite unusual among law professors."
Paul Bender, former dean of ASU's law school, first saw Charles Calleros express himself artistically at a variety revue produced by law students. Bender says that Calleros played trap drums for the show. The next year, Bender recalls, Calleros danced. "Very few faculty members would put themselves in that position," Bender says. "They tend to be pretty stuffy in terms of hobbies. I don't know of any other law professors who do anything quite as colorful. "And the fact that he does it publicly! It's one thing to play piano at home, but to be semiprofessionally involved as he is . . . "
Unlike law professors, Pink Jeep tour drivers are known for having colorful, sometimes eccentric, backgrounds. "Most of 'em migrate to Sedona first," says Shawn Wendell, owner and president of the company. "Because of the arts district here, because of the beauty of the place. We have a core that's been here three, four years." A couple of the drivers are from Australia, Wendell says, one is a retired detective from New York state. There are former business executives, a cowboy, a flamenco guitar player. "Basically, we look for a kind of animation," Wendell says. "They don't have to all be cowboys; they don't have to be all guitar players. It's like people working for Disneyland. They have to turn on to people."
One of the deluxe tour options offered by the company is a special jeep trip that ends in a wilderness cookout. Guy Frankel often is called on to entertain the groups. His guitar playing and singing, framed by the dazzling setting of red rocks and the deep sky at dusk, tends to go over big with the tourists. "They're very amazed," Wendell says. "MY DAD WAS a professor at the University of Miami. He just decided to quit teaching, buy a camper and take off. We sold the house and traveled in Europe for a whole year before we ran out of money."
Guy Frankel and his folks settled in Seville, Spain, in the Barrio de Santa Cruz. "The very heartbeat of flamenco," Frankel says. "We lived in a little house, right on a square, La Plaza de Dona Eviera. Every night there was flamenco music going on. "There was a group of benches and a fountain in the middle of the square. People would come to the old quarter, which is the old Jewish ghetto, and they would be dancing and singing and clapping hands and playing guitar. "I kind of fell asleep to this music for five years. My window was right on the square. I always feel that it was osmosis."
Still just a kid, Frankel was able to study with flamenco masters. "Every once in a while, you'd get some real purist singers and guitar players who were a little hesitant at passing on their tradition," he says. "Because of my age and my innocence, I was accepted."
There were no texts in Frankel's flamenco education. The guitar and vocal techniques are handed down, teacher to student.
Frankel studied for about three years. Then, his family moved back to the states. As a teenager, Frankel turned his musical attention to rock 'n' roll and pop music. After living in Mexico for several years, Frankel settled in Sedona with a small family of his own. "I like to be outdoors," he says. "I was already pretty familiar with a lot of Southwestern information, the geology, the Indians, the history. The Pink Jeep Tours is just a very good job. Very flexible, too."