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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Whatever Happened to David Marez?

Photo and story by Roberto Álvarez

This crooner has not disappeared, there’s just less airplay plus fewer and fewer Tejano music venues.

When David Marez sings, his smooth yet raspy voice glides effortlessly through each song as though his throat was naturally coated with honey. Lyrically, he dissects and hones each song to perfection.

His romantic vocal delivery is as flawless as Dyango, Emmanuel and Roberto Carlos. However international fame has eluded him because the quality of his voice is lost with cumbia and ranchera musical arrangements which mask and take away from his vocal prowess.

Now twelve vinyl albums, five cassettes and almost a dozen compact discs later, Marez is back with more of the same excellence.

“My latest release, on Joe Posada’s Baby Dude Records, is ‘Eclipse Total,’ a duet with Leslie Lugo,” Marez said during a recent interview.

“Then there’s ‘Quisiera Ser,’ a straight up love song about the joy of being in love with my woman. Going down the line, the next tune is ‘Confieso.’ This one deals about any situation when you tell your woman that you don’t want to be with her anymore,” Marez continued.

Then he went on to describe ‘En Privado’ (‘In Private’) as a tune that describes a how a girl’s shyness can be misunderstood as being stuck up, reserved, cold and unfeeling, yet behind closed doors, the lyrics go on to describe her as a tigress in sexy graphic detail.

“Before I was into flash,” the Mathis, Texas-native admitted in regard to his earlier works. “When I begin singing, I was too immature. Then, as I got older, I finally understood what I could say and what I could do with my voice.

“Now the written words to me are important because these are the lyrics that reach out to me and I think I’m finally getting it right. Lyrics say something and it’s more than singing in tune and carrying a tune. Anyone can do that. To give a song life, to inject the true feeling intended by the songwriter is important; and that somebody is truly listening to me, that is beyond applause.

“I love ‘Anemia’ by José Alfredo Jiménez because the lyrics are a part of my life as they say, ‘You remember me, right? I’m sorry, but I don’t remember because you hurt me so bad.’ People pretend they don’t remember that person. They get back on their feet, but inside they still hurt.”

As a songwriter, Marez himself has only written about twenty songs because he’s more into the interpretation. They may be few, but they are strong numbers that dig deep into his inner most feelings.

“A very important point besides the message is to have a catchy hook. Then, even thought you can do your best in the studio. Following a vocal guide, the original straight vocal performance does not always carry the emotion. You realize this more and more you perform it. The more you sing it at gigs, the more the tune opens up to you. When you find out what the lyrics really mean you start to reflect those feeling in your delivery and you improve your vocal phrasing and gestures as you hone the tune to perfection. That’s why I’m more demonstrative in live performances.

As a result, Marez does not like to record new songs too quickly because he feels that the rendition won’t be as warm and that the process is very mechanical at that stage.

His advice to new recording artists is: “First you have to learn the tune, than you break it down into measures, bars, cue, and etcetera. But after you learn it, it’s engraved in your mind. However, it won’t have the same intensity and feeling that you can put into it a year later – that’s what’s difficult to do in a studio.

“I let the song come first and the rest second because the mind and energy shouldn’t split. One should put all his heart and soul into each song. The performer should feel emotionally drained at the end of a performance because he has live every emotion,” the Burbank High School graduate said in closing.

Yes, the 61-year-old singer-songwriter has come a long way since recording “Jack and Jill” in duet with Joe Jama as a member of the Eptones for Epstein Records in 1965. Since then, he has received numerous awards. His voice can be heard in about a dozen radio and television commercials, he has performed in over eight states and has appeared in virtually every Tejano television program in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon and Mexico, D.F.

If you haven’t seen Marez in action, he will be performing at the Henry B. González Convention Center on Friday, Dec. 17 at the San Antonio Housing Authority Christmas Party. The next day, on Saturday, he is headlining at South Dallas in McAllen, Texas.

To listen to all of his CD, to see more pictures or for booking information, go to www.davidmarezandpeople.com.

Retono Sprouts New Conjunto Sounds

Retune is the newest sprout in conjunto music.

Samuel Ramos Jr., vocals and bajo sexto; Salomon Ramos, accordion and vocals; and Pablo Ramos, bass sprouted from the music seed of Samuel G. Ramos, accordionist and vocalist with Los Tesoro’s. Then there’s their cousin Armando Villela on percussion and drums.

Born in Brownsville, reared in Edinburg and now living in San Benito, Texas, their primary influence was their famous father and their uncle Rolando Ramos, who played bajo sexto. On their mother’s side, their uncle is Juan P. Moreno of the Renegades.

“That’s all we heard when we were growing up,” Samuel Jr. said during an interview in McAllen, Texas.

“Dad recorded 15 to 16 vinyl albums and cassettes; and he’s still recording compact discs. As children, when dad saw we had the desire to learn, he bought each of us an instrument. Salomon actually started out on drums, but when dad sold the drum set, in desperation, he picked up the accordion.

“He bought me a saxophone when I joined the Miller Jordan Middle School, but I liked sports more. But once we got to the age to form a band, I learned how to play the bajo sexto.

In 2000, Samuel joined San Benito’s high school Conjunto Estrella as part of a class offered as a fine arts course. Two years later, Samuel, 17; and Salomon, 15 formed Retono and recorded their first CD, “Primizias” for JB Records. Their sophomore effort, “Prefiero La Soledad” garnered the brothers a Grammy nominated for “Best Norteno Album” in 2006 as they went up against Pesado, Los Huracanes, Conjunto Primavera and Los Tigres Del Norte. The latter group won.

Then came “Mundo de Colores” for Joslin Records in 2008. As they honed their talent and kept getting better and better, they came to the attention of Isaac Bazan, who signed them to Tex Mex Records in March 2010.

Reflecting back on their ascent, Samuel said, “I was listening to Billy Joel, The Carpenters, Earth, Wind and Fire. So we actually started out on the progressive side, but what I was writing had too much funk and using minors and sevens. Minors are notes that are not used that much and sevens is a form of throwing notes, but I put more harmony by hitting other strings. Since then, we have simplified our style. We have two lead vocalists and now our music is catchier.”

Samuel started writing the group’s material at 16 when he was inspired by a girl in Bakersfield, California and he hasn’t stop composing since.

“This is when we were working the cotton fields and on some evening, we barbequed, had a few iced ones and jammed. In fact, we were migrant workers until two years ago,” Samuel added.

“As for our latest CD, Rocky Beltran, from the Badd Boyz kind of brought us together when he told Isaac Bazan about us.”

The result is “Campanitas de Amor,” their best production to date. Among the gems in this CD is “Samuel’s Medley,” the potpourri consists of “Hasta Cuando,” “Paloma Sin Nido” and “Ella y Tu,” all composed by Samuel Sr. and if they sound very familiar, that’s because they were all recorded by David Lee Garza y Los Musicales.

Then there’s the haunting “Dame Mas,” in which Salomon makes his squeezebox sound like two accordions. “That song is based on the melody to Steven Bishop’s “On and On” being played in the bridge,” Samuel explained.

And Samuel Junior’s “No Me Engañes” is sure to become another hit due to harmonies that are reminiscence of Conjunto Bernal. For more information on Retono, go to www.facebook.com/pages/RETONO/137090879641383. To listen to their CD, go to www.myspace.com/gruporetono.

PHOTO:

L-R: Pablo Ramos, Salomon Ramos, Samuel Ramos Jr. and Armando Villela.

Bobby Esquivel Takes Liberty with his Band

Roberto Guerra Esquivel, the band leader of one of Tejano music’s most enduring bands, is unique in that he is unlike any other musician.

“There are no musicians or singers in either side of my parent’s families and I can’t say I was influenced or inspired to become a musician,” Esquivel said during an interview at the Hispanic Entertainment Archives.

“In fact, I don’t even know why I signed up to take band in middle school,” he continued with a puzzled look.

After racking his brain, he had to call his mother to find out what motivated him to take band in Truman Junior High School.

“It was because your friends were in band,” his mother said in a return call.

“That’s right, I had a friend named Juan; and once I got there, I liked the music so much, Roland Pérez and Bardo Cavazos, two horn players plus me and Felipe on drums formed an un-named combo. We started out as The Effics than changed our name to The Unknowns. This is during the time of Henry (Peña) and the Kasuals and the Entertainers,” the young looking 56-year-old band leader said of the 1968 experience.

Two years later, Esquivel on valve trombone; Óscar Padilla, tenor saxophone and Ray “Chafa” Hernández, trumpet; started jamming eventually adding a rhythm section and they would play bars where Viet Nam veterans used to go drink beer. However, they never gave themselves a name.

Esquivel’s turning point came in 1975 when he joined the Gabe González Band featuring Gabe on bass; Joe “Pepe” Sánchez on congas and later Jesse González on vocals; and as he says, “We played all the bars – Mendiola’s, El Ranchito, La Escondida, Alejandro’s and La Estrellita — along S. Zarzamora Street all the way to Palo Alto. In 1977, everybody got out and we regrouped as Liberty Band.”

Again, Esquivel said, “Don’t ask me why we named it Liberty Band, but it’s original members were Jesse, vocals; myself on valve trombone and doing second voice; Ray, trumpet; William Paniagua, trumpet; Concepción “Chon” Chávez, alto saxophone; Danny “Pollo” Peña, guitar; Rubén Hernández, bass; and Jimmy “Talache” Cavazos, drums.”

Liberty Band started out the new decade by recording their first album. By now Charlie McBurney had disbanded his own Mother Truck and joined Esquivel.

“Our first five albums contained original music by Charlie,” Esquivel said giving their most memorable trumpet play his due credit. “He’s the one that put us on the map because he gave us the style that we had. Now we ‘all’ do the arrangements as a team.”

After one album on Albert Esquivel’s Hispanic 80s label, the first album on his own Libertad label made Billboard’s charts with their “Oldies Medley” in 1982. What also helped is that they recorded all their productions at Manny Guerra’s Amen Studios. By now Cavazos had quit and had been replaced by Roddy Charo on drums and Gilbert “Gibby” Velásquez was featured on a guitar solo.

When they reached their tenth anniversary, with the exception of Louie Bustos on saxophone, the original band members had stuck together.

“The reason we remained intact is because of the chemistry among the guys. We worked well together and there was no greed, no envy and no ego trips,” the 5-feet-7-inch musician explained.

Asked where Liberty Band stood in regard to Mazz and La Mafia during the mid to late 1980s and Esquivel said, “We didn’t travel that much because we were too busy here and we didn’t have to go out. We did go to New Mexico, Arizona and California, but not as frequently. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have traveled.

“What kept us working is that the band sounded full and complete. Everyone told us that the horns are what added the flavor to the band. We also had Esmeralda Jaimé do a one-year stint from 1988 to ’89,” he added.

It was the bands eighteenth anniversary when Jesse Gonzٔalez got hurt in a car crash on the way home from a gig. Faced with a lengthy hospital stay, Esquivel has no choice but to replace him with Roy García and James Pardon in 1995.

“Jesse was, and is, a natural because he doesn’t have to practice. He just talks and the music comes out effortlessly, even now. So that dealt us a big blow.”

Roy moved to Miami in 1997, but returned in 2006. During that gap, Louie Marinez, Willie Martínez and Johnny “Aztlán” Hernández filled in the void.

“I have been the band’s second voice since day one, but three years ago, everyone started urging me to step up front. ‘You gotta sing more. You gotta sing more,’ everybody kept telling me. Up to that point I would tell myself, ‘I have a singer, so why sing?’ And now that I started singing lead vocals on some songs, I want to sing more.

“Bobby’s shy, but he lights up when he gets up on stage; and once you give him a microphone, he can’t stop,” Cyndi Carrillo said of her boyfriend.

“Whether it’s singing or playing my horn, I love music,” the hazel-eyed singer/musician reaffirmed.

“They’re seasoned musicians, but they never tire of performing and they’re up there having a good time,” Carrillo added.

Esquivel first recording as a lead singer was “Dejame” and the first time he performed it live, he singled his girlfriend out by dedicating the song to her. She in turn was so proud of her man that she stood in front of the stage singing along, cheering him on and making a big fuss. However the tune is about a man telling his love interest to go, to scram and to get lost because he does not love her.

“This confused a lot of our friends and they were even more puzzled when they saw how happy I was as Bobby sang these awful lyrics, but I was there when he recorded it and this was like giving birth to his first child.”

Today the tight-knit group continues to fill ballrooms and dance halls – last year as far as Chicago and Milwaukee.

If you’re craving old school oldies and Tejano rancheras, cumbias and other beats with a big brass sound from their more than twenty albums, check out this brass heavy band when they perform on Valentine’s Day or when they celebrate their 24th Anniversary in March 2011.

“Winter is the worst time of the year and we don’t have any bookings for December or January,” said Esquivel, who as most musicians relies on gigs in order to make ends meet. So for bookings, call him at (210) 260-4000.