"Río Ancho" is a Spanish flamenco guitar jazz piece that combines flamenco and gypsy jazz influences. The piece is in the key of E minor and progresses to A minor, D, G, C and B7. The original performances of the song had notable flute solos towards the end of the piece, reminiscent of classic Spanish gypsy music with trumpets. The track first featured on Paco de Lucia's 1976 album Almoraima.
In 1980, Paco de Lucia and Al Di Meola collaborated and produced an ensemble track composed of Di Meola's "Mediterranean Sundance" taken from his 1977 album Elegant Gypsy with "Río Ancho". It was performed live in San Francisco on December 5, 1980 and the set was released by Columbia Records as simply Friday Night in San Francisco.
The collaborative version of the song consists of a relatively simple lyrical harmonic progression, adorned by a flamenco rhythm. However, it poses extreme technical difficulties to the performers, due to the speed and precision required of Di Meola's picking on the steel-stringed guitar, playing extremely long melodic phrases, and to Paco De Lucia's complex fingerpicking on the Flamenco guitar, as well as the exact matching of Di Meola and De Lucía's solos which frequently consist of them both playing a rapid set of matching or corresponding notes. They resort to many guitar performance techniques and fingerstyles, such as drumming guitar tops, strumming (both solo and together), bare thumb plucking, palm muting, tremolo picking, hammer-ons and pull-offs, sweep picking, vibratos and glissandos. The song was an instant success. A slightly shorter version of it was included in the November 1996 album "Pavarotti & Friends for War Child" (Track 15).
The 1980 version proved the more successful version and the Mediterranean Sundance and Río Ancho track has since been performed by many artists such as Marco Porcu, Seis Cuerdas, Jorge Martinez and La Peña Flamenca and has become a gypsy jazz classic.
- Ruben Díaz. Mediterranean Sundance / Río Ancho (9 instructional videos). rdiaz.org.