Willie and Lobo return to town

Willie and Lobo, featureing violinist Willie Royal, left, and guitarist Wolfgang "Lobo" Fink, return to the Thomas Center for a rare performance Tuesday.

Special to the Sun
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 12:12 p.m.

Between 1993 and 2006, on 10 albums and performances that transported listeners to farflung musical destinations like a magic carpet, the duo Willie and Lobo stylized sounds from around the world - Gypsy, Celtic, Latin, Middle Eastern and Western swing - into a blend that bedazzled listeners until the two began going their separate ways a few years back.

A year ago, the Gypsy violinist and flamenco guitarist reunited for a brief run of dates that included Gainesville, and on Tuesday they return again for another rare performance at the Thomas Center for the Arts, this time starting at 7 p.m.

"This is just a little thing we're doing; we've scaled way back on the gigs," Willie Royal says from his home in Dunedin, just days after visiting his musical partner, the guitarist Wolfgang "Lobo" Fink, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"Something might come up and we'll just put a few dates around it. But we're not actively booking tours. The days of doing two-month tours and heavy schedules is pretty much over for us," says Royal, who recently recorded two albums with a new group, Willie and the Locos, in which he explores jazzier sounds while backed by a pianist, bassist and percussionist.

On Willie and Lobo albums that ranged from 1993's "Gypsy Boogaloo" to 2006's "Zambra," however, Willie and Lobo drew on styles as disparate as the ones Royal heard while growing up in Turkey, Germany, France and Florida (thanks to a father in the Air Force), as well as the strains Fink learned as a German native who was influenced by Gypsy musicians after living in Gypsy camps in France and Spain.

The duo met in a Mexican cantina in 1983 and began performing together in the early 1990s before recording their first album and making official a pairing whose sound was almost impossible for fans to describe but easy to embrace.

Virtually one listen or one concert was all it took for many fans to become lost in their sound, which Royal describes as somehow sounding like it was made by four musicians instead of two.

"Both of the ways we play just double the instruments; even though we're playing two instruments it's like four instruments," he says. "That's about the best way I can describe it.

"When we first started out way, way back in '90, '91, there were people coming up saying 'I just can't believe this is just a guitar and violin, there's something else going on.'"

Tickets for Tuesday's performance are $18, available in advance at Wild Iris Bookstore, 802 W. University Ave., Gainesville, or at the door.

Contact Sun Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or bill.dean@gvillesun.com.

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