Update: August 1, 2017 It is with great sadness that Accordion Americana must report that Anthony Ortiz, Jr. has passed away in Texas. Hearts are broken among his family, his community, his fellow musicians, his friends, and all who witnessed his great talent. “Like a comet, blazing across the evening sky….gone too soon. Like a rainbow, fading in the twinkling of an eye….gone too soon….” Michael Jackson
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana There is a courageous young man, from Austin, Texas who is attempting to overcome all barriers placed before him. An accordion player and the descendant of immigrants, Anthony Ortiz, Jr. is smart and sophisticated; the winner of awards that recognized his exceptional talent as a musician, performing from the age of nine. But, in addition to his accomplishments, his biggest challenge, to date, is the contest he will win against the cancer that he is currently battling.
Anthony graduated from Austin High School and is studying at Austin Community College. He performs with his father and his grandfather with their family’s band, Mariachi Corbetas and was also a member of the Texas-based Country band, Crooks where he performed on accordion and trumpet. Anthony was a Big Squeeze finalist, in Texas, in 2008 and 2009 and was featured in The Big Squeeze film. He participated in the The Accordion Kings and Queens in the last ten years and performed throughout the region during that time. The young musician was honored with a resolution, “as an expression of high regard” from the Texas House of Representatives which recognized his ability and credited the lifetime achievements of the Ortiz family in Tejano music.
Anthony “grew up listening to tejano and conjunto music, and its traditions”, he writes in his article for MusicFest Magazine in 2015. His first instrument was the drums, then the guitar and finally the accordion which was acquired from a flea market. His father’s gift along with his first lesson, introduced Anthony to the piano accordion, after which his son taught himself to play. Anthony performs along with his grandfather, Lupe “Shorty” Ortiz and his father, Anthony Ortiz, Sr. in their Austin-based family mariachi band, Mariachi Corbetas. “My performance style has been shaped by the way my father plays,” he says, “full of energy, excitement and soul. I’ve also drawn influence from my idols Michael Salgado, Jamie De Anda, Flaco Jimenez, and David Ferias. I typically model my playing after their styles and techniques but add a dash of my own flavor. I blended my Spanish music knowledge with the band’s current sound to help breed a new sound of music.” Anthony refers to his style of playing as “Bandito Country”.
Along the way, Anthony acquired another accordion, a Gabinelli, “the love of my life since the day I got her”, he says, but quickly adds, “that doesn’t mean she hasn’t broken my heart.” He tells the story about the very first night of MusicFest 2015 as he was performing to a packed house on the Grand Ballroom Stage when the accordion’s bellows blew out during an “intense” accordion run. “Unlike replacing a busted guitar string or broken drumsticks, replacing a bellow on an accordion is an endeavor of surgical significance…. It’s a challenge to find another accordion when you are 7,000 feet up a mountain in Colorado, but our tight-knit music family really came through to help make the show go on!” He completed the performance on a borrowed instrument.
“On September 13, 2016, I went to the emergency room with an unbearable pain in my back. After various tests, I was diagnosed with a type of cancer, and immediately underwent surgery to remove a mass. On September 16, I began my first round of chemotherapy treatment. After spending a week in the hospital, I was released and able to return home. I will continue chemotherapy treatment to shrink the remaining masses and rid myself of cancer.”
But the rest of his story is yet to be written. As of an April 5th, 2017 update, Anthony Ortiz, Jr. has received another round of chemotherapy. He is continuing to fight his cancer with great determination and grace.
COREY LEDET KICKS UP HIS GAME WITH “STANDING ON FAITH”
Parks, LA — CPL Records proudly announces the release of Grammy-nominated Zydeco innovator, singer/songwriter/accordion player COREY LEDET & HIS ZYDECO BAND’s “STANDING ON FAITH” (his ninth album) on MARCH 3, 2017. “STANDING ON FAITH” was co-produced by Cecil Green and Jesse Delgizzi and recorded at the Green Room in Ville Platte, LA. Joining Ledet (Accordions/Drums/Vocals/Washboard) in the studio were Delgizzi (Guitar/Bass/Moog/Vocals) and Green (Keyboards).
Ledet injects pop, funk, rhythm-and-blues and reggae on “STANDING ON FAITH”. In doing so, he continues to work from the genre-splicing template set by such zydeco pioneers as Clifton Chenier and Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural. After opening with the funky, Prince-like “Intro,” “STANDING ON FAITH,” continues with the upbeat zydeco-pop instrumental, “Love Never Felt So Good”; stays positive with the album’s zydeco-pop title song; glides to breezy R&B balladry for “Take Me There”; plots a reggae course with the sunny “A Good Day”; and slips into the sleek, contemporary R&B of “Street Light.”
“I don’t like to stick with something that’s easy, or just the way it’s supposed to be,” Ledet says. “I like to explore and experiment. That makes music fun. It’s like cooking. When you’re cooking a recipe, you say, let me try this with that, let me see if this works.”
During most of his 14 years as a band leader, Ledet based his repertoire on the foundation set by Clifton Chenier and other zydeco pioneers. But now he’s moving beyond the zydeco classics. “I can do that all night long,” Ledet says. “But I can do other things as well. Traditional zydeco, nontraditional, pop. I can go any which way I want. This is my way of creating a sound that fits me.”
Blending styles is challenging for Ledet, but he likes the challenge. But before he became a music mixologist, he learned the zydeco basics. “I did all the studying and research I could do,” he says. ‘It took a long time. There’s a lot to learn about zydeco and Creole music. But it’s important to know your background before you learn anything else. After I finished studying all of that, I learned other stuff that interested me. Pop music, classical music. I even listened to Frank Sinatra. People laughed at me, but I listened to anything that’s got notes.”
On the bandstand, Ledet mixes songs originally recorded by pop and country artists into his show: Bruno Mars, Prince, Michael Jackson, Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, reggae fountainhead Bob Marley. Again, Chenier served as a model. “He mixed the old French music with rhythm-and-blues,” Ledet says. ”Ray Charles and Etta James and Louis Jordan were of Clifton’s time. That worked for him. I’m applying Cliff’s recipe to modern-day times, my way.”
At 35, Ledet brings 25 years of bandstand experience to the stage. He turned pro at 10, playing drums in his native Houston for Wilbert Thibodeaux and the Zydeco Rascals. Ledet came naturally to the drums, his first instrument. His late grandfather, Buchanan ‘Tbu’ Ledet, worked as drummer for Clifton Chenier. Although Ledet’s grandfather died in 1978, three years before his birth, the grandson idolizes his grandfather. Chenier’s longtime drummer, Robert Peter, followed the drumming example Ledet’s grandfather set in 1940s and ’50s. “Cliff wanted a drummer who played like my grandfather,” Ledet says. “When you hear Robert, that’s my grandfather’s style.”
For Ledet, working with Thibodeaux and the Zydeco Rascals was like going to zydeco school. The lessons included such essential subjects as keeping the beat and, something less definable, reading audiences. “And whenever other drummers came in the venue, Wilbert called them up to the drums and let me play accordion,” Ledet remembers.
During his decade with Thibodeaux, Ledet organized some gigs on the side for himself as a front man. He officially launched his own band in 2003, after moving to his father’s hometown, Parks, Louisiana. Many people ask Ledet why he left Houston for Parks, a town that has hundreds, rather than millions, of residents. Ledet already knew Parks well. When he was growing up in Houston, his family visited Parks during summers and for holidays and special occasions. “It was hard to leave to go back to Houston,” he remembers. “I like the city, but I like the country better. Some kind of spiritual connection.” On those family drives from Houston to Parks, the family tuned to a zydeco radio as soon as they got close enough to receive the signal. Once they reached Parks, the zydeco music never stopped. “I like all music,” Ledet says. “But zydeco is the first pick for music for me.”
Ledet paid his dues after he launched his career as a band leader from Parks. “I had to build everything from nothing, make my name, make my rounds, prove myself,” he says. “Playing to chairs and tables, paying my band members 10 bucks or five bucks for the night. For a long time, I didn’t make anything.” Ledet persevered, building his music career from the muddy southwest Louisiana ground up. Highlights include his 2013 Grammy nomination for “Nothin’ But the Best,” a collaboration with fellow zydeco musicians Anthony Dopsie, Dwayne Dopsie and André Thierry. “Oh, man, when that happened, I was like, ‘Is this for real?’ Because never in a million years did I think I’d be sitting in the same row at Grammys with Taylor Swift. To come from ground zero to that, lets me know I’m doing something right. I’m kicking up my game by making records like ‘Standing On Faith.’ I want to go even further and do bigger and better things.”
Corey Ledet keeps one foot firmly in the tradition while exploring surrounding influences in order to create the best of both worlds, and is able to infuse old and new styles of Zydeco into his own unique sound. “STANDING ON FAITH” presents the best view yet of the Grammy-nominated Ledet’s expansive talent. Corey Ledet has recently signed an exclusive representation deal with Mitchell & Matt Greenhill’s FLi Artists: fliartists.com/corey-ledet-zydeco-band.
Catch COREY LEDET & HIS ZYDECO BAND (Corey Ledet – Accordion/Vocals, Jesse DeGizzi – Bass/Vocals, Julian Primeaux – Guitar/Vocals, Gerard Delafose – Drums, Statton Doyle – Sax and Nicholas Victorian – Washboard) on tour Spring 2017 in support of his new release.
CONTACT: Karen Leipziger/KL Productions
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana In Houston, Texas, the weather is frequently hot and the tamales are even hotter. But, those who choose to live in such a climate don’t shrink from heat, they just find cool ways to compensate for it. One of the coolest bands to arise from steamy Houston is Buxton. Originating from LaPorte, Texas, the Americana band is comprised of Sergio Trevino on guitar and vocals, Jason Willis on guitar, mandolin and pedal steel, Chris Wise on bass, Justin Terrell on drums and the recent addition of Austin Sepulvado on guitar and piano accordion.
It’s the accordion that gives Buxton its distinctive Alt-Country/ Folk sound that draws the listener in. An accordion has a way of doing that, if one knows their way around the instrument. It’s evident that Austin Sepulvado adds the elements of sweetness and yearning that perfectly counters and complements the vocals of Sergio Trevino. The vocal talents of Trevino along with his wistful resemblance to an iconic era of Texas music, compelled the Houston Chronicle to award Trevino Best Male Vocalist and to award the band, Buxton, Best Folk/Americana band.
“Half A Native” is the latest offering for the band, Buxton, their first album since “Nothing Here Seems Strange“(2012). Previous works have been “Feathers 7” (2009), “A Family Light” (2008) and their first album, “Red Follows Red” (2005). “We take from a lot of different genres and present it in a way that I think is most honest for us”, Trevino says. “Half A Native is music for the search for home, the long journey to find somewhere, something or someone that makes everything fall into place.” After finding great success as a regional band, “Half A Native” was recorded in Los Angeles, a departure for Buxton, this time. It was both a business and creative decision to record the album on the West Coast and also to work with Producer Thom Monahan (Peter, Bjorn & John, Devndra Banhart and Vetiver).
As an Indie band, Buxton is seeking new musical directions, deliberately and subtly reinventing itself. “Half a Native” confirms that with each album, their true artistic identity is revealed more and more, making them one of the most interesting Americana bands to emerge in recent times.
Photo by Jay Hudson
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Austin, Texas is home to one of the most diverse musical landscapes in the United States. The accordion has always had a role in the local music scene from the advent of the town’s German Beer Halls in the 1800’s, through the evolution of Tex-Mex music. Because of this presence, the accordion is alive and well represented in Texas music, today.
One of the most popular and respected Texas accordionists is Debra Peters. For the last 24 years, she has consistently performed in Austin and all around Texas with her band, Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band. Debra is a career singer, songwriter, accordionist, pianist and session musician. Also, well-known in Austin as a teacher of the accordion, she is an entrepreneur, producing and marketing her own music recordings and accordion educational videos.
Women musicians who have their own bands are rare. But, a woman musician with the professional longevity that Debra Peters has shown, are all the more rare. Monthly, for the last 2 decades, Debra Peters has appeared at the legendary Broken Spoke in Austin. Also, throughout that time, Debra and her band have toured Europe, Japan, Mexico, North America and Hawaii. Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band were featured at the International Accordion Festival held in San Antonio, Texas. They are scheduled to appear at the upcoming 2016 Texas Folk Life Festival in Austin. This marks the 32nd anniversary for Texas FolkLife, which was started in 1984. The festival presents and honors the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. Tex-Mex and Zydeco/Cajun music are represented in The Love Saint’s Band’s repertoire along with Americana, polkas and other dance music. The daughter of a Canadian railroad engineer, Debra enjoys performing a selection of railroad songs, as well.
As an accordion educator, Debra has presented workshops every year for the past 12 years. ” I am a lifelong music student as well as a lifelong music teacher. Around every corner, there is always something more and great to learn!” Her vision of producing and marketing her own accordion educational videos came out of a workshop held in Las Vegas. Upon viewing an accordion lesson video done by another accordionist, Debra remembered that, as a child, she was introduced to the piano by a lesson video on VCR. At that moment, she determined that she would create her own lesson videos. “It was almost like I was stung by a bee!” Immediately, she went to work to produce an educational video and, in 2005 created The Blues, Chords and Chops. The reaction from her students was positive and in 2007, Debra created The Blues ,Chords and Chops, Volume II. Since then, she has produced and marketed other video accordion lessons, including one that focuses on bass patterns for the Stradella bass keyboard, 25 Bass Patterns. It was a lot of work for the already busy musician to “write and present the lessons, film and edit them, design the covers, produce the actual copies, set up the mail system, build a website, and do the marketing.” She persevered, and today sales from her web site are healthy and she has plans for more lesson videos.
Her enthusiasm for the accordion and her passion for people is evident. Debra strives to encourage others to play the accordion, especially girls and other women. A hardworking professional musician, Debra Peters is inspired, not only to entertain, but to empower others who seek to become skillful accordionists locally and in places far away from her Austin, Texas home. Update: Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band have been invited to participate August 20-21, 2016 at the Cotati Accordion Festival, Cotati California.
Love Saints Music, Austin Texas USA
Photo by Bob Zink
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Grammy Award winning Accordionist, Singer and Producer, Joel Guzman was born and raised in the state of Washington. Migrating to Texas in 1978, the birthplace of his parents, the first person Joel met upon his arrival was Sarah Fox, who would later become his wife. They found an immediate musical connection and shared similar aspirations. Collaborating with Sarah as a musician and singer-songwriter for more than 30 years, Joel Guzman has successfully pushed the boundaries of Tex-Mex music and the accordion. Together, Guzman and Fox have impacted the Tejano/Conjunto genre of music by blending it with Jazz, Blues, Country, Gospel, Folk, Latin Rock, adding elements of Cumbia and Salsa. While respecting tradition, this innovative and dynamic couple may be in the process of redefining American popular music to become more inclusive of ethnic influences, while allowing Latin music to evolve within the American mainstream.
Joel Guzman began studying the accordion when he was about 4-years-old. “I started playing a 2-row accordion, a Hohner. Everybody in my family, my father included, were great musicians. It was just a natural thing, it went from there. I just kept playing more and more, changing into the 3-row and learning how to sing in Spanish.” He would learn songs from old ’78’s and 45’s’ (rpm), records. “I thought it was fun. A lot of kids were playing running back or playing baseball but I was learning songs on the accordion. Those were my toys. My Dad (Lupe Guzman) was a pretty good manager/musician. We used to work in the fields. His dream was trying to get us out of the fields and onto the stage.”
Approximately one year later, Joel’s father realized that his son was unusually gifted and took him to meet the legendary accordionist, Oskar Hernandez. Upon meeting Joel, Hernandez suggested that he try a very challenging work by Rimsky-Korsakov, The Flight of the Bumblebee, likely thinking that it would keep the little boy busy for awhile. Joel learned the piece overnight, and when he arrived to see Oskar the next morning, Hernandez laughed and said, “I meant to learn it and come see me next year, but not this morning, again!” Hernandez became an important influence in the evolution of Joel Guzman as a professional musician. At about the same time, Joel realized that he should learn to play the acoustic guitar, so he studied both instruments, simultaneously.
Oskar Hernandez was one of the few chromatic accordionists in Tejano/Conjunto music and was greatly influenced by Aldo Rizzardi, the reknowned Italian chromatic accordionist. There were not “a lot of players that were laying any ground work for chromatic” in that genre, so other than Hernandez, there were no other role models for Joel to emulate. Joel Guzman began to, and continues to adapt European music typically written for the chromatic accordion, to the smaller diatonic accordion.”I’m influenced by the European players a lot”. But he emphasizes that the accordion, as played in Texas is different than elsewhere” in the United States. “We actually developed a style based on the song form, the corrido“, a popular narrative type of song from Mexico. A corrido is often sung about romance, oppression, history or life experiences shared by a people. It might begin with a salutation from the singer, proceed with a prologue to the story, then tell the story itself, ending with a moral of the story, and finally a farewell from the singer.
Joel is a proponent of using the basses more prominently in music, which are not utilized as much in Tejano/ Conjunto music. He has campaigned for a 40 bass section on the diatonic accordion, which Hohner now produces for Joel Guzman, who endorses Hohner Accordions. “My goal is to get all the kids…to understand the importance of the left hand.” He illustrates his point by saying, “I want to play piano but I’m just going to play with my right hand….You don’t need the left hand?” The left hand is important, because both hands must work together to produce music with the accordion, like every other musical instrument.
Joel Guzman continually performs and tirelessly promotes the accordion. He teaches accordion workshops around the country and hosts Squeezebox Mania, an annual Austin accordion event. He also directs the University of Texas at Austin’s Tex-Mex Conjunto Ensemble. While educating, performing and promoting, he is also searching for the next generation of accordion players. “And I’m still looking.” Oskar Hernandez and others “were innovators and they started the trend. What is happening with a lot of our generation of players now is that they are just copying what those guys did. I haven’t really found somebody that has created an original style since then.”
Los Super Seven, a musical collective organized in 1998 featuring Joel Guzman, won a Grammy Award for the best Mexican/Mexican-American album in 1999. Guzman and Fox also received Grammy Awards for albums, Polka Gritos y Accordeones in 2004 which went on to win both the Latin Grammy and the American Grammy in their respective best Tejano album category and Latinology in 2007. Conjuntazzo followed and was nominated for a Grammy in 2009. With their band, known as Los Aztex, Guzman and Fox have recorded, performed and toured, extensively. They own their own record label, Guzman Fox Records, and in 2012, they were inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame. Their band made appearances in movies, in the Soundtrack of Crazy Heart.in 2010 in which original songs are performed by the cast and others which included Joel Guzman, and in When Angels Sing in 2013,
Sarah Fox and Joel Guzman
After many years as successful partners in business and in life, Joel and Sarah still share the same aspirations that first brought them together: writing, composing original music, performing music around the world, and starting their own production company. They have a son, Gabriel, who performs with his parents on guitar as well as accordion in Los Aztex. A new record is in the works featuring Los Aztex for Guzman Fox Records.
Always curious about music, Joel Guzman is “still wanting to know how we can redefine music, how to make it better. How…not get caught up and be complacent with it just because it’s a certain genre…..We are always trying to go beyond the scope.” Joel Guzman is always learning and says, “My ears are always open”.