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October 30, 2014

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Great guitarist Esteban plans to go around the world in a single show

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Master guitarist Esteban.

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Esteban and his daughter Theresa Joy.

Every so often, master guitarist Esteban slips in a reference to “bro.” As in, “I am so grateful, bro, just to be playing music for a living.”

Whoever you are, you are Esteban’s brother, and the world is Esteban’s brotherhood -- he embraces a multicultural instrumental showcase that invokes what he calls a “multicultural mosaic of music.”

Esteban begins a three-month run at Shimmer Cabaret at LVH at 8:30 tonight and again Friday and Jan. 3 in a show aptly titled "Music From the Heart." He plays Thursdays and Fridays over the next three months, with select Saturday performances scheduled.

His style is best described as any offering on the musical buffet, from rock to Bach, as he says. Classical, flamenco, pop, Broadway, Irish folk … nothing is out of Esteban’s range.

“This is a special thing,” Esteban said during a recent phone interview. “We have a four-piece band and a dancer. If we’re playing a flamenco song, we’ll have a flamenco dancer onstage. It’s like you learn the full culture. We’ll have belly dancing, Irish dancing. It’ll be a different show than people are used to seeing in a casino.”

The “we” is in reference to Esteban’s daughter, violinist Teresa Joy. The duo sold out two nights at Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in September. Esteban channeled his daughter to the violin rather than the guitar because violin happens to be his favorite instrument.

“I love the violin, but I was more naturally gifted to play the guitar,” Esteban says. “I started her at age 4 on the violin, and God touched her. … I love, love my kid.”

Esteban says he favors “any instrument with frets,” including ukulele, mandolin, sitar and banjo. His story is one of deep inner passion and good fortune. He was born with the name Stephen Paul, and after years of pestering persuaded the great Spanish classical guitarist Andres Sergovia to serve as his mentor. It was Sergovia who dubbed the young musician “Esteban,” the Spanish variation of his first name.

After studying with Sergovia for five years, Esteban had blossomed into a fine classical guitarist. But his career veered unexpectedly, and almost fatally, when he was slammed head on by a drunk driver heading the wrong direction on a one-way street when Esteban was living in Phoenix. It was 1980, and the musician was 32 years old, having developed a distinctive way of playing classical guitar.

The accident damaged the nerves in Esteban’s spine, left arm and left hand. The dark glasses are to protect his left eye, as the accident left him partially blind.

Esteban spent 10 years away from performing, and when he finally resumed playing (thanks to extensive acupuncture treatments), he was forced to alter the manner in which he played guitar. He became an intuitive ballad performer, investigating the playing styles of myriad cultures.

“I started branching out,” he says. “I was not playing straight classical music anymore. I was making up my own songs, in my own vein.”

Esteban has a vision for a career in Las Vegas that seems to stretch across the universe. He would love to be in a larger venue, of course, possibly even LVH Theater if the Shimmer gig works out. “I want to bridge all the gaps and show people something they have never seen before.”

Sounds like a really cool thing, bro. Really cool.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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