Santiago Jimenez Jr. at the Continental Club

Live Shots

Santiago Jiménez Jr.

Continental Club, September 5

"This is nice weather we're having," ventured Santiago Jiménez Jr. at the conclusion of his first three-minute lesson on the history of conjunto, greeting a so-called "intimate" audience of no more than two dozen people. Bassist/Bad Liver Mark Rubin, looking very Buena Vista Social Club in his handsome red guayabera and porkpie hat, had already introduced the trio, which included the similarly-attired J.J. Barrera on 12-string bajo sexto. "Nice dancing weather, isn't it?" enthused Jiménez, flashing an ever-present and disarming smile. On a typically blazing Central Texas summer Sunday afternoon, at the outset of a magical, three-hour matinee performance by the 55-year-old San Antonio accordion king, the weather inside the climate-contolled South Austin nightspot was indeed nice, an air-conditioned breeze wafting continually through the club. "Here's a waltz. Muchas gracias for coming out." As would happen a dozen or three times throughout both of Jiménez's sets, a carousel of lively, spirited conjunto would spin you round and round 'til you got dizzy. "Here's a polka my father, Don Santiago Jiménez, wrote in 1948 when I was four," explained the scion of the legendary accordion emperor. "Has anyone ever been to Cotula? Cotula, Texas?" Si. Down by Laredo. I met a girl there once. Many times, actually. "This is the 'Cotula Waltz.'" Again, a merry-go-round of border sounds spun like a top. "Maria Te Queiro," recorded by Santiago and his older brother Leonardo in 1960, came next. "If you see my brother Flaco, say 'hi' for me," quipped the more sober of the two brothers, an accordion player of staggering ability. "Morena, Morenita," a ranchera, followed, then another polka, then a schottische, and finally a spry rendition of "Volver, Volver," ending the first set. After a long intermission, Jiménez, his rhythm section, and his Hohner Corona B squeezebox played an hour-plus second set that never let up: boleros, cumbias, huapangos, corridos. Everything. In between the traditional sounds of South Texas, Jiménez, with Rubin's help, engaged in another Latin-American tradition -- telling stories, most of them tour-diary anecdotes ending with the same humorous moral: Being a musician means "suffering a little bit." Yeah, there should have been more people at the Continental Club to bathe in the musical essence of this land. Indigenous sounds from a legend of the genre. They'll have their chance the first week of every month. "Muchas gracias, muchas gracias," repeated Jiménez graciously a little after 6pm. "Tell your friends."

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