A little over a decade ago, German guitarist Ottmar Liebert came up with a good idea — playing simple, melodic, flamenco-tinged licks over an easygoing yet propulsive groove. That idea produced a hit album the first time out of the box, “Nouveau Flamenco” (Higher Octave), an engaging record that comfortably straddled the world music and New Age camps. And Liebert was still riding that basic idea at the House of Blues Tuesday night, allowing for some augmentation of means and occasional brief sidetrips off the path.
The seated, barefooted guitarist looked soulful, a bit withdrawn, and imperviously serene as he peeled off one pleasantly tuneful line after another over the two-or-three-chord vamps, rarely wasting a note. He switched to electric guitar once in the first set in “Ballad 4 Santana,” producing a warm, fuzz-toned sound that gradually came to resemble that of the famed guitarist, even borrowing some of the latter’s patented licks. Now and then, the two-man horn section would add some light riffs — and some real flamenco guitar emerged just before intermission, courtesy of backup guitarist Calvin Hazen.
Throughout the second set, Liebert and company would veer away from his own easy-flowing compositions to try a few cover tunes with mixed results. It seemed to take the band forever to crank out the tune of “The Girl From Ipanema” in a mild samba treatment. The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” emerged gradually, almost classically, but the two-man percussion section wasn’t dynamic enough to make it work. They did pull off a reasonably rousing “Grazing In The Grass,” sticking closely to Hugh Masekela’s concept.
Yet even though Liebert tried to promote new material — including eight selections from his latest Epic album “Little Wing” — his heart of hearts still seems to reside in his first self-produced album. The onset of “2 The Night” lifted the energy level of his ensemble considerably and “Barcelona Nights” remains his most distinctive and most durable tune. Nothing seemed to provoke as much enthusiasm from the band and audience alike as the early material.