Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Legendary Latin Jazz Fusion Act Azteca Reunites For L.A. Concert & Video

One of the more unusual reunions of a 1970's music act happened Saturday night at the Hollywood Key Club - legendary Latin Jazz Fusion act Azteca appeared for the first time in more than 30 years.

Created and arranged by documentary producer Daniel E. Mesa, the concert reunited original members Pete Escovedo, vocalists Wendy Haas and Errol Knowles, bassist Paul Jackson, guitarist Bill Courtial, percussionist Victor Pantoja, trombonist Jules Rowell and former Miles Davis and Chick Corea drummer Lenny White.

Azteca Reunion Concert, September 15, 2007 - Photo By Tom Meek

Azteca was a short-lived Latin Jazz Fusion supergroup that did two records for Columbia in the early 1970's. Founded by the late Coke Escovedo and Pete Escovedo after their departure from Latin rock superband Santana, Azteca was the first band to employ a large ensemble of horns, woodwinds, keyboards, latin percussion, and other instruments (up to 25 members in live performance) to create a hybrid of latin, jazz and fusion music featuring high-level accomplished musicians from various musical backgrounds.

Azteca is also where percussion superstar Sheila E(scovedo) got her start as a teenager, filling in on a night when Victor Pantoja was ill. Other notable Azteca members included Santana/Journey guitarist Neal Schon, woodwind player Mel Martin, vocalist (the late) Rico Reyes, and keyboardist Mike Nock.

Of special note was vocalist Wendy Haas, who also appeared on Santana's highly respected 1973 "Welcome" album. Married to actor-comedian-artist Martin Mull, Haas' appearance onstage was her first in decades.

The concert ended with a tribute from Escovedo's daughter Sheila E. and other members of the Escovedo family, who led an all-star Latin percussion and music jam with more than 20 musicians onstage, lasting nearly 15 minutes.

According to guitarist Bill Courtial, it's hoped at least one more show can be arranged and produced in San Francisco, the band's home.

Despite being only a relatively modest 30 years old, producer Mesa has a profound interest in jazz fusion and Latin music of past decades, which he's stated he wants to see both preserved and rediscovered. He had previously completed a retrospective concert and DVD on legendary jazz and fusion guitarist Larry Coryell, and a smilar DVD release is planned for the Azteca Reunion concert.

Chick Corea To Reunite Return To Forever

A rumor quietly circulating through the Los Angeles-area musical community was essentially confirmed Saturday night - Chick Corea's legendary Return To Forever band will reunite for a planned 2008 concert tour.

(L to R) Lenny White, Chick Corea, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke

I asked Return To Forever drummer Lenny White, who appeared at the Hollywood Key Club that evening as part of the Azteca Reunion concert, backstage whether the story was true, and before I could finish the question he responded "Yes, I'm flying to Florida tomorrow to see Chick - it's going to happen in 2008" - Corea has a home in the Tampa area.

The lineup offered to me earlier in the week was that usually most beloved by Return To Forever fans - Keyboardist Chick Corea, Guitarist Al Di Meola, Bassist Stanley Clarke, and White. Together they were one of the most popular, respected and biggest selling jazz/fusion acts of the 1970's.

While no official announcement has been made, prospects are that 2008 will see one of the most in-demand tickets for a jazz music act in years worldwide.

(This news was first posted Sunday at the Fusion Forums at DigitalDreamDoor.com, which are edited by the author).