VOLR-5. The fifth annual "Voices of Latin Rock Benefit for Autism Awareness and the Alex Speaks Foundation Benefit Concert" drew a sold-out audience to San Francisco's Warfield Theater, on Saturday, January 24th. The event included a fantastic lineup: War, El Chicano, the reunion of Azteca, the Voices of Latin Rock Revue (under the musical direction of Karl Perazzo), and Los Cenzontles.
In 2004, Ron Sansoe and Jim McCarthy published a book (issued by Hal Leonard Press) that documented the Latin rock era, mainly around the San Francisco Bay. Titled "The Voices of Latin Rock," this book told the story of the people and places that made the Latin rock scene happen in the 1960s and 1970s. The book has done volumes to recognize the unsung heroes and heroines who made this music part of the rock'n'roll story.
But these concerts go beyond the music and represent a labor of love, inspired by the mission to raise awareness about autism, a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication. It impacts many parts of the brain and it is usually noticed by parents during the first two years of a child's life.
LOS CENZONTLES. The musical festivities opened with Los Cenzontles. A cultural treasure from the city of San Pablo, this group has swayed young people away from the perils of gangs and drugs for the last 20 years. Using Mexican traditional music as the catalyst for change has led to the betterment of the community. Founded by Eugene Rodríguez, Los Cenzontles (which means Mockingbirds in the Aztecs' Nahuatal language) have established a cultural center, taught hundreds of students via afterschool programs and recorded over 17 albums with artists such as Lalo Guerrero, Santiago Jiménez, Los Lobos, and many other masters of Chicano and Mexican folk music. Their latest CD, a collaboration with David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos fame), is titled Songs of Wood and Steel
EL CHICANO. El Chicano came out smoking and quickly engaged the audience, which welcomed the East L.A.-rooted band (originally called the VIP's in the 1960s) with a roar of applause. The mix created by El Chicano highlighted the Hammond B-3 organ playing of Bobby Espinosa and the smooth bass sounds of Fred Sánchez. They gave the Latin rock era a sound that was incredibly influential and they are still in the pocket of that organ trio texture. In 1970, they recorded an instrumental song written by jazz great Gerald Wilson titled Viva...