The early 1970s saw the rise of several Latin rock bands that incorporated Afro-Cuban and other Latin American music elements. Santana is the best known and its leader Carlos Santana is still an influential figure. Other groups like El Chicano, Azteca, Malo, Tierra and Sapo were short lived although they left an important legacy. One of those band, Azteca, got back together in 2007 and played a concert on September 15th at the Hollywood Key Club. The live performance was recorded and has now been released as a CD (From the Ruins) and DVD (La Piedra del Sol)
Despite the Mexican sounding name, Azteca’s Latin American influences are closer to Cuba. The group combines the fiery energy of rock guitar played by Bill Courtial with a spectacular rhythm section featuring virtuoso timbalero Pete Escovedo, conga master Victor Pantoja, the drum kit wizardry of legendary jazz and rock drummer Lenny White and the bass work of Paul Jackson. The brass section played an important role in Azteca, which made it very different from Santana, which rarely used brass. The brass section featured in the 2007 reunion includes Jules Bowell on valve trombone, Melecio Magdaluyo on flute and sax, Mario González on trumpet and Alex Murzyn on sax and piccolo. The characteristic electric piano sound is added by Murray Low.
Although Azteca’s sound features lots of outstanding jams, with impression percussion solos, Azteca’s vocals were a very important element. They added a jazz and soul element to the group’s sound. For the live recording, Wendy Haas, Pete Escovedo, Errol Knowles and Victor Pantoja provided the vocals.
Buy the DVD La Piedra del Sol.