Aztex: Short Stories
Short Stories (Hightone)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Oct. 1, 1999
Short Stories (Hightone)One of highlights of seeing Mexican-American supergroup Los Super Seven perform live was the surprising exuberance and musicality of accordion player Joel Guzman. Along with his wife/vocalist Sarah Fox, Guzman fronts the Central Texas-based Aztex, the couple's attempt at a bilingual fusion of rock, jazz, blues, traditional Mexican conjunto, and tropical rhythms that's adventurous but successful only part of the time. Producer Steve Berlin, best known as a member of Los Lobos and for his work with the Grammy-winning Los Super Seven, lets the propulsive beats breathe while the instrumentation is given a interesting glow. Unfortunately, most of the original material composed by Fox and/or Guzman lacks substance beyond cliches like "better off without him" and "why don't you love me," which despite their energetic surroundings just don't stand up to repeated listenings. One exception, "Amorique," is an infectious cumbia defying you to sit still. In fact, Short Stories finds some credible performances in its more traditional-sounding fare, like the bolero "La Ultima Noche," an admirable showcase of Fox's capable singing, and the "Pajarrillo Barranqueno," a lullaby where Guzman's accordion playing really shines. Their cover of Joe Ely's "Maybe, Maybe" is given a light cha-cha treatment that doesn't really fit its melancholy sentiment while Ely's vocals are virtually imperceptible. Aztex has the potential to make breathtaking music, but overall, Short Stories is a frustrating work.