Friday, October 18, 2013

Santiago Jimenez Jr., one of many, to perform at this weekends 22nd Annual NMCAC Conjunto Festival.

Santiago Jimenez Jr.
The musical lineage of the legendary Jimenez family can be traced back to the early days of the accordion scene in Texas. According to Santiago Jimenez Jr., it all started with his grandfather.

"Don Patricio Jimenez, was the one that started all this circo, como dice uno (circus, like one says) late in the 1800s," said Santiago Jimenez Jr., 69.

Santiago Jimenez Sr. was the next one in line. He began recording accordion music during the 1930's. His polkas "Viva Seguin", "La Piedrera" and "La Nopalera" have since gone on to become standards in conjunto music. Then the next generation broke ground in the 1950's — Leonardo "Flaco" Jimenez and Santiago Jimenez Jr.

"I feel orgulloso (proud)," Santiago said of his family and their history in conjunto music. "I feel very proud of what I've been doing all my life. Music is my life."

Both brothers started playing at quinceañeras, parties and weddings during their teenager years. By the age of 17, Santiago recorded his first album with the help of his older brother in 1961. Santiago played the accordion while Flaco, 21 at the time, accompanied him on the bajo-sexto. The album was titled El Rey y El Principe de La Musica Norteña; it was released on Lira Records. It would be the only album that the two brothers would collaborate on.

The two brothers would both become icons in their own, distinct ways. Flaco branched out to different genres and towards a modernized sound. Santiago has kept his style as close to its roots as any musician alive today.

"Un estilo unico," is how Santiago describes his unique style. "There is no other bands that compete with my style, because they don't play it."

One thing that sets Santiago apart from his peers, including his brother, is his choice in accordion. Jimenez makes a particular claim and as far as I can tell, it's true. There are no other, well-known modern-day accordionists in Tejano, conjunto or Tex-Mex music that use a two-row button diatonic accordion.

"My dad used to play two-row accordions all his life, he never did use a three-row," Santiago said. Other pioneers like Narciso Martinez and Pedro Ayala, started with a two-row before acquiring three-row accordions. "So I went back to buy me a two-row button accordion, like my dad and since then, I've been playing two-row."

With a Hohner Erica two-row, Santiago has established himself as the heir of his father's style. I point out to him that I've noticed that he likes to use the left-hand, bass-side of the accordion, something that is rarely seen in this genre of music. He explains that he is not happy without the bass, and how it's very important for him to have that additional layer of sound.

Santiago said that he has more than 80 releases to his name at this point in his career. Those releases include LPs, 45s, 8-tracks, cassette tapes and CDs. He's working on a new album right now, in his small, home recording studio. He's an analog-type of man.

"It's a studio, like you can mix it with frijoles, tacos, and tortillas, y todo ese jale (and all that stuff)," Santiago laughs. "Reel to Reel, I don't record with digital or nada de eso (none of that). I am using the original, the way we use to record."

I've never heard anyone compare their recording studio to homemade Mexican cuisine. It's a unique, clever comparison. Both music and food have a huge place within our culture, with family get-togethers and celebrations revolving around both. They each have family traditions attached to them. Also, nothing goes better with conjunto music than this type of food. I can't be the only one that wants to eat nopales when listening to "La Nopalera". Only thing Santiago forgot to mention in his comparison was la cerveza (the beer). Or maybe the preferred word would bebironga (slang word for beer).

Santiago feels that by playing and recording music in this manner, he's preserving the memory of his legendary father.

"That's why I never have changed my style," Santiago said. "So I started playing like my dad. Not identical, because you can not play like the original person but almost identical."


Friday, October 18, 2013

Karisma 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Ole Treviño y Los Imposibles 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Eddie “Lalo” Torres con Anita Paiz 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Conjunto Aztlan 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Los Pinkys w/ special guest Susan Torres 10:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Conjunto Estrella, San Benito High School 4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Ramiro Cavazos y Los Donnenos 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Bene Medina y Conjunto Aguila 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Edgar Vásquez y Sus Muchachos 7:00p.m. – 8:30p.m.
Los Ángeles Del Sur 8:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Santiago Jiménez y Su Conjunto 10:00 p.m – 11:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Frutty Villarreal y Los Mavericks 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Gilberto Pérez y Sus Compadres 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Boni Mauricio y Los Maximos 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Rubén De La Cruz y Su Conjunto 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Los Garcia Brothers 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

The Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center
22nd Annual Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Festival Conjunto Festival
When: Friday, October 18, 2013 6:00 pm – 11:00 p.m.
Saturday October 19, 2013 4:00 pm – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday October 20, 2013 4:00 pm - 9:30 p.m.
Where: 225 E. Stenger Street San Benito, Texas
Cost: $5.00 per day
Website and Phone Number: and 956-367-0335 (Rogelio Nuñez).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Q & A with Jay Perez

San Antonio's Jay Perez returns to the Valley, for an event that will celebrate his twenty-plus year career in Tejano music. The award-winning vocalist took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to me about his career and the future of the genre.

Eduardo Martinez: What can the fans expect to hear on Saturday night?

Jay Perez: What we like to do is we normally throw in the new stuff (first), that we've been promoting for the past year. Then we'll do some old school songs that launched off my career with the Latin Breed, off to (my stint) with David Lee Garza y Los Musicales and then (go) up-to-date. That's pretty much it.

EM: What did you take away from your time with Latin Breed?

JP: It was pretty much a free education when I was with the Latin Breed. They were much older than I was when I joined them. The singers that they had, both of them prior to me getting into the band, turned out to be some of my greatest mentors — Adalberto Gallegos, Jimmy Edwards. Of course the caliber of musicians that were on that stage — the horn players, the keyboard player, the guitar player, the drummer, the bass player — were all just monsters. These guys were at the top of their game, ahead of everybody at the time. They were just unbelievable. That was my time to learn, from people who knew.

EM: In 1993, you released your first solo album, "Te Llevo En Mi". What are the key differences in your style from then to now?

JP: It hasn't really changed much, man. I don't like to change my formula too much, because people are familiar with the first album that I recorded on my own. It just carried on from there. The style, the chord progressions, the melodies, the songs that I write, and the songwriters that have given me hits over the years, we have pretty much kept it the same way.

You don't really want to change much of your music and confuse the people. You really don't want to do that. But what you do want to do is give them a variety of things. I can sing country, R&B, a little bit of mariachi, not that much but I've tried it in the past, and of course my Tejano music. With all that, we've kept that same style, formula, and flavor over the years. It's worked asta la fecha (to date).

EM: How important has producer Gilbert Velasquez been to your career?

JP: He's another mentor of mine. The little genius behind the board, that's what I call him. He has done it all. I've learned a lot from him. A lot of the ideas, concepts have come from Gilbert. I'm not giving him all the credit but I'm giving him the majority of the credit. He's an icon in this business. Very well respected, not only as a musician, but as a producer, arranger and engineer as well. I'm still recording with him.

EM: Looking at the modern-day Tejano scene, what do you think should be done to ensure the future of the genre?

JP: I think that the new artists that are coming up and making a lot of noise, in a good way, have to step up their game. I think that if they lose track and lose focus of what the people are asking for, this industry is going to go down.

I think that the new generation has got everything in the palm of their hands to keep this industry going, to keep Tejano music alive. It's up to them. Dedication and the love for music is number one. They should realize that.

Over the years, I've won so many awards. I've earned my position in this industry because I've been dedicated to what I do. Our writing has always been up to par. Now the younger generation that is coming up right now, has to think along those lines and look at the musicians that have been doing this for years. Ruben Ramos, Little Joe, the Emilio's, the Ram's, the Shelly's, the Stephanie's, the Elida's. They have to look at those musicians and think to themselves, "If they are still around doing what they're doing, still very successful at what they're doing, what's keeping us from doing the same thing?" If they think along those lines, this industry can only grow bigger.

EM: Thank you for your time, good luck on Saturday.

JP: Thank you brother.

Time: 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM.
Date: 10/12
Cost: $15.00 presale, $20.00 at the door.
Phone Number: 956-460-5401
Location: Weslaco Catholic War Veterans Hall.