San Antonio’s Mariachi Azteca de América recently released its first CD, Dame un Minuto. Seven out of the ten songs on the album are original, and all but one of the arrangements are by the ensemble’s leader and musical director, Gino Rivera. The group will open for Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán at Mariachi Vargas en Concierto in Austin on June 7th.
Mariachi Azteca de América was formed eight years ago by Rivera, who chose the name “Azteca de América” as a tribute to his indigenous ancestors. Gino is a San Antonio native and a third generation mariachi musician whose many talents include violinist, singer, arranger, composer, and educator. His grandfather was Pedro Moreno Sr. and his stepfather is Pedro “Pete” Moreno Jr., both local mariachi legends. Not surprisingly, Gino has been involved in mariachi music all his life.
Since its inception, one of Mariachi Azteca de América’s most salient features has been its originality. At their less formal performances, they play mainly requests, which tend to be cover versions of popular songs. The repertory for their shows and stage performances, however, consists entirely of original arrangements and/or compositions. Immediately before accompanying William “Carlton” Gálvez in Austin this June, they plan to perform an original arrangement of María de Lourdes’ famous “México, México,” followed by an original José Alfredo Jiménez popurrí, and “Dame un Minuto,” the title track of the group’s new CD.
Mariachi Azteca de América’s debut CD took about a year to record, and the group evolved considerably during that period. Most mariachis bring in “ringers” (highly proficient guest musicians) when they make recordings, but Gino refused to do this. “I wanted to make an album using only the members of my group,” he explains. “So, my musicians had to rise to the challenge.” The CD’s title song, “Dame un Minuto,” won an award at the 2012 Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Songwriting Competition.
When asked about the group’s greatest accomplishments, Gino paused to think for a moment and confessed, “No one has ever asked me that question before.” He proceeded to mention their annual performances at the Grito de Independencia celebration in San Antonio; playing with José Hernández at the 2102 San Diego, Texas Mariachi Fest; and spoke of accompanying singers like Aida Cuevas, Plácido Domingo, Alberto Ángel “El Cuervo,” Pablo Montero, and Micheal Salgado. “But, now that I think about it,” he concluded,” I believe our group’s two biggest accomplishments are making our own CD with original material and managing to stay together for eight years.”
Asked about his vision for Mariachi Azteca de América, Gino asserted: “I want a well organized, stable group with clear goals and aspirations; one that’s not only respected among other musicians, but that serves as a role model for youth. I’d like to leave a legacy and inspire kids the way I was inspired when I was their age.” Regarding the philosophy behind his arrangements, he explained: “I try to arrange music that’s challenging but playable, like the arrangements on our CD. They’re catchy, and not too ‘out there.'” Gino says he likes to give away copies of his written arrangements to schools, other mariachis, and anyone who wants them, “just to spread the love and get our group’s name out there— to let people know we’re here.”
You can purchase Mariachi Azteca de América’s CD from their website, and you can hear them in person every Friday from 7-10 p.m. at El Bucanero Restaurant in San Antonio. Be sure to catch this exciting group when they open for Mariachi Vargas at Austin’s Long Center on Saturday, June 7th.
Mariachi Azteca de América
Dame un Minuto
Cómo Fue (Eduardo Duarte) Arr: G. Rivera
Dame un Minuto (Gino Rivera) Arr: G. Rivera
No Tengo Nada (Pedro Moreno Jr.) Arr: G. Rivera
Mamá (Gino Rivera) Arr: G. Rivera
A Medias de la Noche (Antonio Acosta) Arr: G. Rivera
No Puedo Olvidarte (Pedro Moreno Jr.) Arr: G. Rivera
No se va a Poder (Pedro Moreno Sr.) Arr: G. Rivera
Soldado de Levita (traditional) Arr: Nati Cano
Ayer (Gino Rivera) Arr: G. Rivera
La Pajarita (Gino Rivera) Arr: G. Rivera
Mariachi Azteca de América members
1st violin: Gino Rivera, Luis Esquivel
2nd violin: Carlos Adrián Torres, Miguel Ibarra
3rd violin: Luis Carlos González
Trumpet: Jesús Guerra, David Ortiz, Héctor Bermea
Vihuela: Ahuitzotl “Güicho” Cabral
Guitar: Octavio Raúl Aguilar
Guitarrón: Ricardo Rocha
Harp: Robert Casillas