Whether the musical direction of the guitar duo Duende was a smart career choice or a pleasant detour before a severe reality check is something only time will tell. But in any event, Duende has made a goodbeginning.
Ensconced at Sam's Waterfront Cafe since August, the duo, also known as newlyweds Todd and Ann Kreuzeburg of Annapolis, hasbeen performing its blend of contemporary acoustic rock, jazz and the classical Spanish form known as flamenco between 7:30 and 11:30 p.m. for the Friday night dinner crowd.
"We knew each other distantly growing up," said Ann, "but it wasn't until now that something clicked. We were just in the right place.
"We were married June 20, and we started playing together after that. It's something that we both love to do, and it's easier than playing rock music on the weekends. It's a nice sort of music to do, very laid-back, but you also have to be precise and keep your wits aboutyou."
Michael Dalesio, the proprietor and manager at Sam's, explained that he chose the duo because "I was looking for something different.
"I like the Latin sound, and I always have," he said. "It's hard not to be captivated by this music. It cuts across all ages because it's easy to dance to, and it also allows the musicians to develop their virtuosity. Plus, there are so many single guitarists around town who are playing pretty much the same thing -- Jimmy Buffet and so forth."
Todd agreed, adding, "Rock-and-roll is such a beaten path. Everybody and his brother has a rock band. And some of them are actually pretty good, but flamenco is a rare thing in this area. Fortunately, for Ann and me, it's the norm."
The name of the duo is a Spanish word meaning the soul or the spirit. But for Ann, the name means their music is "contemporary, with a Latin feel."
It refers to the way the two musicians, together professionally for just the past two months, have amalgamated a number of guitar-based influences, including rock, jazz and other popular styles, and presented them in a Spanish style that is precise, elegant and distinctly their own.
"I grew up with Latin music, and Ann has been playing it since we met," Todd said. "We try to find songs that have a potential Latin flavor and then bring that out. It's been pretty popular so far."
As if toillustrate that point, during a recent Friday night performance, Duende started out gently, apparently ignored by the crowd getting started on its weekend.
Undaunted, Duende played popular music such as the Beatles, the late Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, even Led Zeppelin, among others. The duo enfolded it with a gentle flamenco sensibility, and by the time the evening was half over, had begun to seduce the clientele into enjoying some food for the soul.
This is not the kind of music you might think could be used to evoke a languid Spanish summer afternoon, but Duende makes it work.
As it is, the duo's playing recalls the artistry of Charlie Byrd or Andre Segovia. Essentially self-taught, but growing up in homes surrounded by music, these two artists show real potential for continued excellence.
And if the name "Acoustic Alchemy" hadn't already been taken by another guitar duo, it wouldn't be inappropriate to describe the music of Duende along those lines.
The secret of Duende's success has been the influence of people such as Paco De Lucia, Al DiMeola, Pat Metheny, Jeff Beck and others.
In addition, a big part of Ann's musical growth was her time in the workshops of Anne Arundel County-based master guitar craftsman Paul Reed Smith.
"I was there, off and on, for a total of about four years. It taught me a lot about the music business," Ann said.
"It's a great place to be if you'renot performing, because it's still music, just the industry part. Even if I wasn't performing, I was still doing my part to make the world that much more of a beautiful place."