He can usually be found in the Ty Lounge of the Four Seasons Bilmore on Wednesday and Saturday evenings and in the lounge of the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort on Friday evenings, but this Sunday flamenco guitar virtuoso Chris Fossek is diversifying his local performances with a show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. The gig will mark the Santa Barbara-based musician’s first solo performance at the venue, where he played with a trio last year, and feature two new pieces among his older compositions. Though he plays a flamenco instrument, Mr. Fossek told the News-Press that his music wouldn’t be accurately described as pure flamenco or the other nylon-stringed genre of classical music, but rather an amalgamation of several genres he has been exposed to in different places.
“It’s a reflection of where I’ve lived and the places I’ve been and the people I’ve come across,” he said.
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Mr. Fossek began his musical career learning classical piano. In his early twenties he moved to Italy, where he attended the faculty of the University of Bologna’s Drama, Art and Music Studies. From Italy he traveled to Spain, which is where he experienced his relatively late-career instrument switch. The strumming of flamenco guitars was a common sound in the Spanish neighborhood in which he resided, and Mr. Fossek quickly grew attached to the instrument.
Having traveled throughout the “Greater Mediterranean” to countries like Portugal, France, Slovenia, Croatia, and Lebanon, Mr. Fossek told the News-Press his music can best be described as “Mediterranean-inspired.” In addition to the flamenco base his guitar playing acquired in Spain and the classical music of his early training, his music also contains considerable Balkan folk influence. For this, Mr. Fossek credited Miroslav Tadic, a world-renowned guitarist and composer who mentored him when earning his master’s degree from California Institute of the Arts.
I addition to playing pieces he composes, Mr. Fossek’s performances also include a great deal of improvisation. While sometimes a rhythmic pattern or a harmonic idea can provide the beginnings of a new piece, melodic lines he stumbles upon during improvisational passages are what most often grow into full-fledged songs.
“That will be a seed for something that will turn into a piece,” he told the News-Press.
In 2017 Mr. Fossek released his debut album “Camino Cielo,” but he is not presently working on a follow-up record. Instead, he has been working on a number of other projects, which include lending his guitar playing to two soon to be released music videos by electronic dance singer Little Warrior. Though there’s not presently a new album on the horizon, when Mr. Fossek takes the SOhO stage he will perform two new songs, on which he will debut his new instrument, a baritone flamenco guitar. Though it looks exactly like a regular flamenco instrument, the guitarist said once picked up and played the differences are impossible to miss.
“It’s a bigger instrument with a deeper range,” he said. He added that “it has a really rich, deep sound.”
While he can frequently be seen onstage in theaters and lounges, Mr. Fossek does have experience playing for bigger crowds. Once in the early 2000s, he played in front of 20,000 people in the Olympic Stadium of Rome when Italian pop star Biagio Antonacci invited him to play at one of his concerts. As the guitarist recalled, performing in front of the sea of fans in the stadium wasn’t difficult, at least not compared to playing for Mr. Antonacci’s managers, who vetted his playing ability prior to Mr. Fossek joining the singer on stage.
“The nerve-wracking performance was the one for them before the show,” he said.
As the new decade begins, Mr. Fossek plans to increase his number of international performances and festival appearances. A master of his instrument, discovering new aspects of guitar playing remains an attractive prospect. However, Mr. Fossek admitted that he doesn’t practice nearly as much as he used to. Between gigging and other business-related demands of the music industry, it leaves little time for him to discover ways to add to his already virtuosic playing.
“I feel like if I did have the time I’d get more out of it. So I do miss it,” he said. Tickets for Mr. Fossek’s November 24 performance at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club cost $10 and can be purchased online at www.sohosb.com. The performance begins at 7:00 p.m. and doors to the venue open at 6:00 p.m. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located 1221 State St. Ste. 205.