By Roberto Alvarez
Roger Velásquez and the Latin Legendz won Latin Grammy for “Best Tejano Album” with their album called “Tex Mex Funk.”
The 19th annual ceremony was held last month on November 15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This was a landmark win for the singer-songwriter and his band since the “Best Tejano Album” category was taken off the ballot and remained non-existent until 2017.
Last week on December 13, Latin Grammy winners Velasquez and the Latin Legendz were honored by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and San Antonio’s City Council with a Personal Point of Privilege. Later that evening the Recording Academy Texas Chapter held a special reception in honor of their Latin Grammy winners.
“With this album, Roger Velásquez emerges from a genre filled with traditionalists by taking a nontraditional approach. “Tex Mex Funk” merges traditional Tejano with rhythm and blues. Emanating with Chicano soul, this is his most powerful album to date,” the publishing team for the band said.
Within that category, the band faced Proyecto Insomnio, a La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico-based Tejano band, Grupo Alamo, norteño Tejano artist Michael Salgado and Jimmy González y Grupo Mazz. González, who passed on June 6 –was posthumously nominated and poised to win his sixth Latin Grammy.
This VDiscos album rightfully won because, starting with the opening tune, “La Bandera de Tejas” (“The Flag of Texas”) – in duet with actor, dancer, singer Jesse Borrego and penned by Velásquez – was the best representation of Chicano music.
“This ranchera speaks to la raza, of being Tejano, of being from Texas and the spirit one has for our Lone Star State and what it represents,” the vocalist/guitarist said.
“It’s the loving of the red, white and blue of our state and our national flag; and what it represents. I also identify this song with the immigrant coming to our country and wrapping themselves in the red, white and blue. And even though it’s not their flag, they can still take pride of being a part of this nation.
“I can relate to them because I’m a descendent of immigrants running away from all the killing during the Mexican revolution; and they too are running here to escape being killed.”
After explaining the basis for the lyrics, Velásquez addressed the instrumentation and musical arrangements since Grammy nominees are selected on originality and the excellence of their recordings, not on a slick rearranged more innovative recording of a cover.
“I’m 15 to 20 years younger than most Tejano music icons. I grew up on their music. So, Chicano music flows through my veins. It became a part of my DNA. Tejano is Chicano. Tejano is Tex Mex. It’s Sunny Ozuna singing ‘Talk to Me’ on ‘American Bandstand’ and ‘Reina de mi Amor’ at venues. That’s who we are. We are versatile musicians that can perform any music genre as an orquesta chicana. That’s who we are,” the Latin Grammy vocalist said.
Austin-based Grupo Fantasma’s five horn brass section, which is led by Gilbert Elorreaga Jr., joined the Latin Legendz in what is a listening experience you’ll never forget.
“What do you expect when you could couple seven living legends with the band that won the Grammy Award for “Best Latin Rock, Alternative/Urban Album” at the 53rd Grammy Awards in 2011?” Roger asked. “Furthermore, they were the backup band for Prince in Las Vegas.”
They are Beto Jr., trumpet; Leo Gauna, trombone; Gene Centeno, alto sax; Gabe Pintor, tenor sax; and Josh Levy on baritone sax. In addition, vocalist Wednesday Ball lent her voice to his recording, in which everyone kicks butt.
“It was awesome to see Beto play with his son. Now, this is a true Tejano CD from an orquesta chicana. We were able to do that because we are Tex Mex; and, this is as American as you can get.
“I’m a Tejano (Texan). I just earned a Grammy. Yet, I don’t get airplay in my own hometown. You know, the Latin world wants to know what is happening to Tejano music. During many of the Latin Grammy parties and functions, musicians from Spain and South America asked me that. So, I now feel it is my responsibility to carry the flag for Tejano music. Otherwise, they may eliminate the “Best Tejano Album” category – again.
This album, which was dedicated in loving memory to bassist Pete Ramos Garza, was recorded before the untimely passing of Pete Ojeda, who also played bass on this CD.
Again, congratulations to the Latin Legendz – Roger Velásquez vocals and guitar; Jose Macías, accordion; Frank Salazar, bass; Al Gómez, trumpet; Beto Elorreaga Sr., trumpet; Frank Pérez, trumpet; Anselmo Leal, tenor sax; Georgie Padilla, percussion; and Richard Solís on drums.
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