Legendary Tortilla Factory Releases CD "All That Jazz"

The legendary Tortilla Factory, the Texas Chicano supergroup, has released a new CD "All that Jazz" 23 years after their last release, and Bobby Butler's voice is as rich as ever. Known as "El Charro Negro" to his fans, he has the distinction of being the only African American who sings the "Homeland Texas Chicano" a term coined by the band's leader, Tony "Ham" Guerrero.

Joining the band is Tony's son Alfredo Guerrero, infusing a new note into the band's repertoire by singing songs with an urban flavor as well as the ballad "Hasta Que Te Conoci." Jerry Lopez (Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony) from Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns lends guitar and vocals to that track.

Lopez said, "I was honored and very flattered to work on this project. Tony has worked with some of the greats in our business, and I wanted to give back a little of what the Tortilla Factory gave me in my formative years. Just by being on their CD I have earned a 'badge' that I wanted for a long time."

Tony sings a particularly poignant standard, "What a Wonderful World, " a song filled with the emotion of a man who has fought a battle for his health in the last two years, including dying twice on the operating table.

The recent submission of "All That Jazz" to the National Recording Academy for Grammy consideration was quite an arduous process, made difficult by the fact that the music is so hard to pigeonhole. For example, tracks from the CD fall into categories as diverse as Acid Jazz, to Spanish Ballads, to Jazz Standards, to Urban Contemporary, to traditional Tejano. About the closest description can be American World Music, a genre-defying melting pot of sound. There is a unique tone that weaves through all the songs, a definite sound that identifies it as true as Texas.

Bandleader Tony Guerrero, known as "Ham" to his audience, winces at the word "Tejano" and the stereotype it invokes. In 1963, when he was traveling the country with Johnny Long & His Orchestra, the other musicians (Italians and Jews from New York who were much older than the young Tony) were intrigued by the sound he was playing during a break in practice, and asked him to describe it. "They liked it and wanted to know what it was. About the only thing I could think to say was that it was Texas Chicano Homeland. That's when I came up with that description. "

Along the way, Tony has met and played with some of the legends of music. He went to San Francisco in 1964 and landed right in the middle of the flower-power scene. Tony relates "it was the start of the Haight-Ashbury flower power era, and we were all just a bunch of broke musicians living in the Mission District of San was more like the hood...Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, and Greg Rollie (Journey), we were all there at that time. "

Tony Guerrero was part of a very popular act called Little Joe Y Familia in the early '70s, they played rock three nights a week at the Orphanage Night Club in San Francisco. They recorded a Latin rock album called "La Familia Inc. Finally." Essentially, the "Familia" seceded to become "The Tortilla Factory." Tony, a gifted musician who was granted a scholarship to the Berkley College of Music, wanted to develop in a different direction. Now, Tortilla Factory's music is analyzed and study in music theory classes at Berkley, bringing events full circle.

The Tortilla Factory was "indie" before the term was coined. Drawing over a million dollars a year in the '70s without a record label, and subequently getting in trouble with the IRS because of it, the band was a successful touring act all over the United States, drawing crowds of thousands. That fan base is still there. "In only two performances we've done in the last two years our attendance was over 1, 500 people both times, " Guerrero said.

Tejano Music" is a much misused umbrella term that actually incorporates a lot of different types of music. "That's unfortunate, many of us don't fall into this stereotype because we don't all play accordions and wear cowboy hats." The genre has all but been ignored by the major record labels and even the spanish-speaking radio stations. Recently the hundreds of thousands of Tejano fans have been very active. The Austin Tejano Music Coalition, with the support of Senator Barrientos (D), Texas announced on August 28, 2008 the start of two new stations, one FM and one AM, that will play this music exclusively.

Arnold Garcia, Editor of the Austin American Statesman, said, "Guerrero and other Tejano troubadours were the connecting tissue of Chicano culture in their heyday. They provided the bilingual sound track of our lives not to mention all those memories of Saturday night dances that provided rhythmic relief from drab lives. Sociology aside, it was and is just damn good music."

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