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.


Zina Escovedo said...

Dear Tom,
Thank you so much for your review on the Azteca Band. What a wonderful night that was. This is Pete Escovedo's other daughter Zina. I would like to make a correction to your review that Mr. Pete Escovedo himself who lead the Azteca Band to the final song "Watcha Gonna Do". Pete invited other musicians onto the stage to make the night more memorable. We will be posting actual footage from the rehearsals very soon on www.PeteEscovedo.com. We appreciate your love for live music, thank you.
Zina Escovedo

Vicente Mercado said...

Congratulations, besides the web space Moonflowercafe.com and a couple of myspace.com pages, you are the only media that has reported this historic event. It is fabulous that you followed up with posting with news about the Return to Forever reunion. Your high caliber musicianship angle of the story is important, Azteca gave the jazz world heavy weights like Lenny White, Paul Jackson, Mel Martin, Pete Escovedo -the bearer of the Latin jazz torch, and Tom Harrell, whom you did not mention.
Percussionist Paris Escovedo, Coke Escovedo's son, was the event's MC and joined his cousins Sheila, Peter Michael, and Juan for the encore.
Thanks for helping validate this great American band, viva Azteca!
Vicente Mercado
ps: you are welcome to check out Azteca reunion photos at: myspace.com/vincemercado

Cai said...

Keep up the good work.