Los Texmaniacs
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Los Texmaniacs

San Antonio, Texas, United States | INDIE

San Antonio, Texas, United States | INDIE
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Having won the 2010 Grammy for Best Tejano Album with their album Borders y Bailes and currently on a tour in China, Los Texmaniacs have gotten used to people asking, "How are these guys doing this? What is their secret?" Their answer, simply, "We're just being who we are… just sticking to our culture and roots."

Los Texmaniacs performed earlier this month at the Cityfolk Festival. In their interview, Max Baca (bajo sexto) and David Farías (accordion) speak about their major influences, Flaco Jimenez and Oscar Tellez, and the history of their instruments. Having been described as "turbo-charged conjunto," Baca and Farías enjoy the occasional blues licks to play on their traditional instruments. "We're just having fun on stage and putting some spices on it," says Farías.

Performing for over 10 years now, the 4-piece conjunto band benefits from a lot of trust among its members. Farías explains that the band plays something a little different every time they perform. Before they are on stage they do not tell each other how they will play. It may be more influenced by blues, country, rock, etc. "It just happens," says Farías.

Los Texmaniacs do not intend to slow down any time this year as they are already working on a new album, and will be touring across the U.S. as well as Switzerland and Germany. They hope to reach a younger audience by entering the college circuit and teaching workshops. Baca has no doubt that this traditional music has the potential to reach a wider audience as he explains, "This music attracts you. Once you hear it you think, 'This is cool. I dig it.' So it's like, why can't this music be on MTV? VH1?" - WYSO.org


In conjunto music, the 12-string bajo sexto is the accordion’s best friend: a constant companion who handles the bass and backbeat, allowing the accordion player to focus on right-hand melody (and often ignore the left-hand bass buttons entirely). As conjunto music’s premier bajo sexto player, Max Baca of Los Texmaniacs has become the guy every accordionist wants to play with.

Baca started playing bass in his father’s band at the age of eight and formed his own band when he was just twelve. He eventually went on to play with Flaco Jiménez and then the Texas Tornados, the popular cross-over group that included Jiménez, Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, and Augie Meyers. Baca loved the Tornados’ rock-and-roll sound, but was drawn to the traditional conjunto music of his roots as well. In 1997 he created Los Texmaniacs and went to work fusing blues and rock-and-roll influences with the traditional conjunto pairing of button accordion and bajo sexto.

In recognition of the way Los Texmaniacs has pushed the envelope with conjunto, Smithsonian Folkways is releasing Los Texmaniacs’ Borders y Bailes this month as part of their ongoing Tradiciones/Traditions series showcasing music from Latin American traditions. Los Texmaniacs will also perform at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington next week.

The track below (“Redova”) is a bouncy instrumental duet between Baca’s bajo sexto and David Farias’ accordion. The redova rose to popularity in Europe in the mid-1800s and was imported to Mexico shortly thereafter; its sprightly one-two-three step resembles a fast waltz. You can still hear it amongst the polkas, schottisches, cumbias, and huapangos at a typical conjunto dance. - Let'sPolka.com


by Brent Baldwin

Years ago while playing a gig in Washington with departed Tejano singing great Lydia Mendoza, Max Baca met Smithsonian Folkways’ Dan Sheehy and pitched him a conjunto album.

Baca is a master of the bajo sexto, a “baritone-ish” 12-string guitar with both bass and guitar strings. “The bajo sexto has an up-front, attacking sound that people like,” says Baca, who began playing when he was 5. He learned from his father, who is credited with introducing “chicken-scratch” music to the Southwest.

“Anyway, Sheahy told me I needed a niche or some concept, but I didn’t know what he meant,” Baca recalls. “Twenty years later, I came up with Los Texmaniacs.”

Traditional conjunto, the Spanish word for group, music was derived from German settlers in Texas at the turn of the century, he says, when locals adapted the oompah sound of the German accordion polkas and waltzes. In the 1920s the bajo sexto took the place of the left-handed bass accompaniment on the accordion, allowing the accordionist to play with more speed and feel, creating what’s now known as the Tex-Mex sound. Baca’s group takes the traditional style and adds rock sung in Spanish, jazz, and R&B — Texas blues elements similar to the famous Texas Tornados, with whom Baca toured for 13 years.

“Dan finally saw [Los Texmaniacs] at a folk festival and said, ‘Now you have a concept!’” Baca says. Their album, “Borders and Bailes,” won a Grammy last year.

It’s fitting that Baca finally is being recognized for his own group, considering he’s played with people such as the legendary Flaco Jiménez, the Rolling Stones and John Cougar Mellencamp.

Producer Don Was asked Baca and Jiménez to record with the Stones on their “Voodoo Lounge album.” It was a memorable session to say the least. “We got the call backstage at a gig and Flaco said ‘sure’ and hung up. Then he looked at me and in that grizzled voice said, ‘Who are the Rolling Stones, man?’”

“We walked into the studio in Hollywood, at A&M studios. I didn’t know what to expect. Me and Flaco were touring with a group called the Rock Angels from L.A. … Keith Richards was sitting in the corner, smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of coffee. Mick Jagger was at the mixing board. So, we say ‘hey,’ and I get my bajo out of my case and Keith Richards’ eyes just opened up like, whoa. He stood up and walked right to me and was like, ‘Hey, what is that, man?’

“I told him it’s a bajo sexto and he was like, ‘Wow, man, can I see it?’”

Baca was shaking. “This is Keith Richards, you know? He’s smoking a cigarette and trying to play it, and it’s tuned different, so he managed to get a few chords, but his ashes are spilling all over the instrument. I still have some there — I taped some there.”

He remembers what “Keef” said next. “‘Wow this is amazing, I want it.’ He goes, ‘Name your price. What do you want for it, I’ll buy it right now.’ I didn’t know, I asked Flaco … ten thousand, twenty thousand? I didn’t know. But it was a personalized guitar from my dad. So I said, ‘Man, Mr. Richards I can’t sell it to you, it’s a gift from my father.’ He goes, ‘Are you sure? Name your price, man, I don’t care.’

“And I didn’t sell it to him.”

The recording was a piece of cake. “They tricked us and did it in one take. Mick said we’ll get some levels on you guys, and so we’re running through the song one time. And Flaco says, ‘OK, let’s take one.’ Mick gets on the speaker and says, ‘Man, we got you guys already.’ We were ready to really nail a track, but it was a first take, your spontaneous take. When you know that red button is not on, the real character comes out. And they got it.”

When he returned home, Baca told his dad the story about not selling the instrument. “And he goes [in a high voice]: ‘Pendejo!! You should’ve sold that thing. You could’ve bought the factory!’” - Style Weekly


By: Michael Corcoran
Friday, February 26, 2010

Los Texmaniacs “Borders y Bailes” (Smithsonian Folkways) Grade: A

A newcomer to regional Mexican music once asked the late, great Keith Ferguson (Fabulous Thunderbirds) to recommend some conjunto tejano music. “If the picture on the album cover has some Mexican guys and one of them is holding an accordion,” Ferguson said, “that’s the good stuff.”

But some conjunto bands are better than others, and Los Texmaniacs of San Antonio are probably the best one out there today. Led by Flaco Jimenez’s longtime bajo sexto player Max Baca Jr., Los Tex puts some drive in their polkas, boleros and rancheras, while staying true to the music of the pioneers.

While some of the traditional songs on “B y B” may sound formulaic, there are some twists to the quartet’s interpretation- some rock riff guitars here, some fluttery, staccato rhythms there- that keeps the music fresh.

The adventurous instrumental “Huapango,” with its complex rhythmic changes and David Farias’ (Tropa F) jazzy squeezebox fills, sounds like it was recorded with Steve Jordan in the room. The Smithsonian logo on the LP’s back cover, meanwhile, speaks for the band’s authenticity.

Keith Ferguson is no longer around, but I’m here to tell you that Los Texmaniacs new album is the good stuff. Play it in your car and whatever you’re driving turns into an old Chevy. - Austin360.com


The accordion-driven conjunto tejano and its music emerged from the rural, small-town life of the Rio Grande Valley in the first half of the 20th century. Called "el Valle" or "the Valley" by its majority Spanish-speaking population, the south Texas border region is a flat, fertile floodplain rich in crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and citrus. By the early 21st century, this small, regional music had spawned hundreds—if not thousands--of conjuntos, had spread to dance halls, event rooms, and house parties in many regions of the United States, and had earned a place in the music industry's prized GRAMMY awards. A few artists, such as the pre-eminent San Antonio accordionist Flaco Jiménez, appeared in collaborations with high profile music luminaries such as country music's Dwight Yoakum and rock's Rolling Stones. San Antonio became the commercial center for the music, and its Tejano Conjunto Festival staked its claim to a major niche of the Texan music panorama. The honoring of its living ancestors Narciso Martínez, Santiago Almeida, Valerio Longoria, Tony de la Rosa, and Mingo Saldívar by the United States National Endowment for the Arts confirmed its place as a major American vernacular musical tradition.

Inspired by the efforts of those pioneering musicians a new generation has emerged. Max Baca, the leader of Los Texmaniacs, was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His grandfather was an amateur accordion player, and his father, Max Baca, Sr., played accordion in his own band. Narciso Martínez was one of his father's idols, and Baca treasured his recordings. At age five, Max started learning accordion. "I was five years old, and I learned the polka 'Monterrey.' The second song I learned was 'In the Mood'." This openness to incorporating the musical sounds around him into the conjunto music he inherited from this father portended the future direction of his musical career. Max remembers not having a normal childhood. In school he got in trouble for writing songs during math class. "It was all about music for me," he recalls. His father made Max and his brother Jimmy practice, and by the age of eight, Max was playing electric bass in his father's conjunto. The group played three or four nights a week, a necessity to bring food to the family table. He went with his father to many dances in Indian pueblos and to the popular Calderón dance club in Phoenix, Arizona.

Max also cherishes memories of the many trips with his father to see Flaco Jiménez perform in the Fronterizo dance club in Lubbock, Texas. People called Jiménez "the dance hall filler" ("el llena salones") because of the crowds he attracted with his dynamic accordion playing. Max was seven years old and could barely see over the stage floor. "Man, I'd get goose bumps right when these guys were ready to get on the stage." When he was twelve, Max joined his brother Jimmy to form their own group, Los Hermanos Baca. One night, Flaco invited them to come on stage with him and play. Flaco remembers the moment: "The people went crazy to see two young kids just tearing it up and doing it right. And for their age, I felt that there was going to be a future for either Jimmy or Max, especially Max because of the bajo sexto. He could handle it real good." Max idolized Flaco and his music: "It was my ultimate dream to play with Flaco Jimenez." Twenty years later, it came true.

Max had been playing in Albuquerque with Los Hermanos Baca when Flaco invited him to come to San Antonio and play bajo sexto in his band. Flaco showed him the old techniques and encouraged him to play all twelve strings, in contrast to many other players who ignored the lower strings, relegating the bass line entirely to the electric bass. Jiménez had been collaborating with non-conjunto artists such as Ry Cooder, Peter Rowan, and Dwight Yoakum. On the horizon were the Texas Tornados, the popular crossover group that included Flaco Jiménez, Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, and Augie Meyers. Max was attracted to the group's rock and roll beat, the Freddy Fender ballad singing, and the "downright stomping conjunto of Flaco and Augie." The freedom to relate to the rock and roll sound of his youth as well to as the traditional conjunto roots from his father appealed to him and felt natural.

Doug Sahm's death in 1999 led to the decline of the Texas Tornados. Max continued to play with Flaco, but wanted to keep the creative flame of the Texas Tornados alive in his own work. In 1997, he created Los Texmaniacs. His concept was to keep the rock and roll dimension of his music going while at the same time sticking to the roots of conjunto, especially the accordion and bajo sexto. He remembered his father's words of advice: "Remember where you come from and remain humble." It was not easy finding quality musicians who shared his concept. Some played straight conjunto, others played straight rock, and very few were open to both. "It's been a long journey trying to find guys that were on - Smithsonian Folkways Magazine


February 11, 2010

Max Baca formed his San Antonio-based conjunto band Los Texmaniacs in 1997. In Tejano music circles, conjunto is the pairing of a twelve-string guitar called a bajo sexto and a button-accordion. Over the years, the members of Los Texmaniacs have changed. Their most recent incarnation features bassist Oscar García, drummer Lorenzo Martinez, and La Tropa F front man David Farias on accordion.lostexmaniacs 2010 Grammy Award Winners Los Texmaniacs

Los Texmaniacs were asked to record an album for Smithsonian Folkways featuring traditional South Texas conjunto music. The result, a CD titled “Borders y Bailes” earned the group the 2010 Grammy Award on January 31 for Best Tejano Album.

Shortly after their Grammy win, Baca and Farias visited the Latino USA studios in Austin, bringing their bajo-sexto and accordion with them. - Latino USA: Cultural Reporting


Discography

Borders y Bailes (Smithsonian Folkways) - 2009

About Time (Maniax Records) - 2007

A Tex-Mex Groove (Maniax Records) - 2004

Photos

Bio

Los Texmaniacs –– feed the masses, with only the best in musical fare. Founded by Max Baca (bajo sexto, vocals), the TexManiacs are a product of his wide-ranging experience touring and recording with groups from his father’s family conjunto, Flaco Jimenenz, the original Texas Tornados, Los Super Seven and the Rolling Stones. Max is a legend on the bajo sexto, a twelve string guitar-like instrument, which customarily provides rhythm accompaniment for the button accordion, thus creating the core of the conjunto sound. On the bajo, Max uses the instrument to push the TexManiacs sound to another level of vibrancy altogether. He has displayed a musical virtuosity and blistering guitar riff solo style, that is now being emulated by young bajo players internationally. Max is credited for turning a traditional folk / roots/conjunto instrument hip again, attracting young, new audiences while maintaining his roots in traditional Tex-Mex. His many sojourns as a life long musician have resulted in an impressive international touring schedule, including four tours to Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Kosovo to entertain the troops. Max has appeared on national television programs such as Conan O’ Brien, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Austin City Limits. Max has also been featured in several PBS documentarys such as: Songs of the Homeland, American Roots Music, and Latin Music USA. Max has also participated on ten Grammy winning projects including the double-platinum CD for the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge (Virgin 96). Max’ most recent Grammy was with his band, Los Tex Maniacs Jan 30th 2010 for Borders Y Bailes (Smithsonian Folkways) 2009.

David Farias (accordion, vocals) comes from a prominent musical family, he started playing music at age eight. For thirty-four years David helped morph the family band “Los Hermanos Farias “into the Tejano super group phenomenon “La Tropa F”. David was inducted in the Tejano music hall of fame in 2007, and earned numerous Tejano music awards. He has been nominated for two Latin Grammy’s and two Grammy’s, bringing home the gold in 2010 with partner Max. David has earned numerous gold records and performed in front of tens of thousands. David parted ways with his former group in 2006 the precise moment Max was looking for a new accordion player. “Being with the Texmanics has been a blessing” David explains, “the need to incorporate jazz and blues licks” into his conjunto style playing, has propelled his masterful “squeezebox” sound to new audiences worldwide leading to an endorsement with Hohner Accordions.

Lorenzo Martinez (drums, guitarron, vocals) was born and raised in the Norwalk- Whittier area of Los Angeles, California. He grew up listening to accordion music, and took up saxophone which led to jazz studies in college. Lorenzo studied mariachi music with renowned Jose Hernandez and Nati Cano at UCLA, meanwhile playing R&B and Tex-Mex in East L.A. at night with groups such as Los Rock Angels and Los Lobos.

Oscar Garcia (bass) was born in Santa Cruz, California. His father, “Chon” Garcia, was a professional musician from McAllen Texas. Oscar started accordion at age five. First with his fathers group , and eventually with accordion legend Mingo Saldivar. Along the way he learned drums, bajo sexto, and then bass. He also sings first and second vocal parts further displaying the versatility of a complete musician.

Like a great salsa, the Texmaniacs mix the simplest yet finest ingredients of Texas music to create a sound solidly rooted in tradition, exploding with contemporary vitality. Texmaniacs versatiility has led them to performances such as The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, International Accordion Festival, Kennedy Center, Governor of Texas Ball and many major festivals oversees in countries such as Germany, Holland, and Spain.

Los Texmaniacs have been awarded proclamations as ambassadors of good will from several goverment entities including Cities of: San Antonio Texas, Austin Texas, Los Angeles California , and Alberquerqe New Mexico.

Their first CD, A Tex Mex Groove,(2004) contains a wide sampling of musical focus that is characteristic of the group. It also hosts a legendary line-up of guest artists, such as Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers, and Ruben Ramos, and Los Lobos, who share the TexManiac take. The second CD,“ About Time“ (2007) peaked at #1 on the Tex-Mex charts. Los Texmaniacs current CD is the Grammy Award winning “Borders Y Bailes” for Smithsonian Folkways (2009). Smithsonian Folkways is the record label of The Smithsonian National Museum of The United States.

This project further cemented Los Texmaniacs, rightful place in history as master musicians in their respective musical disciplines.

So don’t just stay for supper, make sure you stick around for dessert.