Juan Carmona is a virtuosic flamenco guitarist who has been showered with accolades over the course of his career and, though he is best known as a fiery live performer, he has several albums to his name, among them the Grammy-nominated Orillas (2003). Born in 1963 in Lyons, France, of gypsy descent, Carmona took an interest in guitar playing at a young age; at age ten he was given his first guitar by his father. Enamored of the instrument, he traveled to the land of his ancestors, Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusia, a city of approximately 200,000 in the south of Spain that is generally considered the wellspring of flamenco music. There he dedicated nearly a decade of his life to flamenco, learning from and playing with legends of the style. In 1988 he won the first of many distinguished awards, the Jerez de la Frontera International Competition, and a year later he was awarded a diploma from the Jerez Flamenco Foundation, given to him by living legend Manolo Sanlucar. The Villa Médicis Hors les Murs honor followed in 1990, as did the Don Antonio Chacón trophy and more. In 1994 he won perhaps his most notable award to date, first prize in the Madrid de Paco de Lucía Competition.
Carmona commenced his solo recording career in 1996 with Borboreo, a tribute to Jerez de la Frontera overseen by Isidro Muñoz and released by L'Empreinte Digitale, and he also returned to his native France that year. He formed his own band, Juan Carmona Grupo, and dedicated himself to live performance, touring all over the world, from the United States to Russia. He also began seeking out a broad range of musical collaborations, teaming up with jazz and classical musicians as well as contributing scores to numerous films. His recording career in partnership with L'Empreinte Digitale continued in the wake of his solo debut: in 1997 he collaborated with Françoise Atlan on Falla Lorca, a collection of Spanish folk, and with José Mendez on Entre Dos Barrios, an album in the jerezana style; in 1998 he released the solo album Antes...; in 1999 he collaborated with Giraldillo for Cosa de Dos, a collection of sevillanas; in 2000 he released his second solo album, Caminos Nuevos, and in 2002 he released his third, Orillas.
Though he was already well established within the flamenco community, Carmona broadened his audience considerably with Orillas. Billed as a tribute to Morocco and Andalusia when the two regions were one united kingdom divided only by the Mediterranean Sea, Orillas was nominated for a 2003 Latin Grammy Award in the category of Best Flamenco Album. His next album, Sinfonia Flamenca (2006), was also nominated for a Best Flamenco Album Latin Grammy. A blend of composed and improvised music where the worlds of classical and Andalusian music collide, Sinfonia Flamenca features the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, among numerous other collaborative guests, and was released by Le Chant du Monde. The French label proceeded to reissue some of his key back catalog titles, including Orillas, the following year. ~ Jason Birchmeier