Reviewed by Belinda Acosta, Fri., Feb. 18, 2005
From Aztlan With Love
It might seem a curious marriage of political consciousness with sentiment, but the Movimiento-rooted Conjunto Aztlan's newest CD, From Aztlan With Love, is dedicated to love. It's not entirely surprising, considering the words of Che Guevara, prominently quoted in the liner notes and early on the disc: "All true revolutionaries are guided by great feelings of love." As for Conjunto Aztlan, it's not just love. They brought their hearts and spirits to their long-awaited second CD. They also bring a let-the-good-times-roll vitality to the 13 tracks, written by founding CJ members Juan Tejeda and José Flores Peregrino. As always, traditional conjunto forms (cumbias, rancheras, huapangas, etc.) provide the foundation for CJ tunes. This time around, traditional forms are steeped in rhythm and blues, Latin jazz, and salsa, sounding comfortingly familiar yet new. This is especially true in tunes like "De que me sirve," which is a distinctly cry-into-your-beer confessional to rival the classic "Volver," while "Brown-Eyed Boogie" is R&B embellished with tearful accordion. Vocally, CJ is in top form. Peregrino's well-hewn tone is a fitting contrast to Tejeda's assertive voice. Clemencia Zapata brings a welcome female tinge to the mix, but she's not simply decoration. Her chameleonlike range moves from whispery to throaty depending on the need. Completing the vocal mix is Erik Flores, who also provides bass, guitars, and mandolin. Together, they've provided a musically rich love letter from Aztlan.