When the flamenco music of Ricardo Marlow fills the evening air, the spirits and spirits of diners drift towards Spain from the outdoor patio of the Cedar Knoll restaurant under the pergola. Marlow, professional flamenco guitarist and singer, performs in the restaurant several times a week, solo and with other artists.
A native of Washington, DC, he says that growing up with classical guitarist parents, “Spanish guitars were always hanging around the house.” His father, John E. Marlow, studied with the famous classical guitarist Andres Segovia in Spain. When Ricardo heard Spanish guitar music, âthe flamenco genre really resonated,â he said in a recent interview. Marlow usually plays a musical style called rumba at Cedar Knoll.
At the restaurant, Marlow is sometimes joined by Yiyi, who has roots in Seville and plays the cajon, a wooden box with two to three guitar strings inside, designed to sound like a snare drum. Another rumba artist, Jose Oretea, also sings and performs alongside Marlow on certain nights.
Groveton resident Laura Jernigan goes to restaurants several times a month. âI go because it’s perfection,â she says, âsitting at the bucolic Cedar Knoll overlooking the sunsets over the Potomac River and listening to world-class flamenco music live. There is no other place like it. And she adds: “Their Spanish wine is delicious and so is the food.”
Marlow was born in 1975, raised in Washington, DC, and studied Music Industry Merchandising at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. After graduating in 1997, he returned to Washington and accompanied flamenco dancers. He studied with the flamenco guitar teacher at the American University Sophocles Papas and since 1999 has traveled to Spain every year (except in 2020) where he studied with Gerardo NuÃ±ez. He is married to a flamenco dancer and has three children aged 8-18 who, so far, do not play flamenco.
Noting that he also “learned on the job”, he plays flamenco guitar and sings throughout the Washington area. For 16 years he performed in the old restaurant Las Tapas in Alexandria on King Street, what Marlow calls “a former flamenco center”. The restaurant is now closed.
Among many venues, he has performed at the Millennium Stage at Kennedy Center, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Barclay Theater in Irvine, California, and with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Strathmore in Rockville and the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.
His heroes are Gerardo NuÃ±ez, his teacher, and the famous Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de LucÃa, who died in 2014.
Flamenco is a prominent Spanish musical art form that traditionally involves playing the guitar, singing and dancing. The music has roots in the Andalusian Roma region of southern Spain. The Andalusian capital, Seville, is considered the natural capital of music.
Flamenco music has many song forms, and when performing, musicians choose a song form. For some flamenco songs, the lyrics are dark, on topics like death and despair. Others are lighter or more cheerful, with themes, for example, of love and the countryside. Some are fast. Some are slow. Traditional flamenco shows involve a single guitarist and dancer in traditional Spanish costume who uses intricate arm and body movements, hand strokes, heel pads, and castanets. (Cedar Knoll does not feature dancers.)
The flamenco guitar has six strings like other guitars, but the string spacing is wider than on other guitars so that the artist can put his fingers between them. The scratching, called rasgueado, looks like a percussion and the instrument has a plastic protection on its surface to protect it from the scratching movements.
The Alexandrian Louis Pecaro heard Marlow and Yiyi for the first time in mid-September on the restaurant terrace. âThey are incredibly skilled and also lively,â he said. âThey’re perfect for getting carried away by the warmth of Latin music. ”
Cedar Knoll Restaurant opened in 2015. It features four dining rooms, three indoor fireplaces, and views of the Potomac River. It is located on the west side of the southern part of George Washington Memorial Parkway at its intersection with Lucia Lane, seven miles south of Alexandria. The restaurant’s original building was a log cabin from the early 1800s. The land was once part of River Farm, one of George Washington’s five farms.
The flamenco musicians perform several evenings a week, now on the outdoor terrace but in cooler weather, indoors. The restaurant’s specialties include Spanish wine dinners several times a month. The chefs of the restaurant are Andrew Holden and Charles Blevins.