Sarah Fox: La Sirena
BY MARGARET MOSER
Sarah Fox counts on her résumé not one but two Grammy-winning projects. Teamed with husband and noted accordion player Joel Guzman, Fox's explosive duet with Joe Ely on "Deportee" helped ignite all-star Latin combine Los Super Seven on its triumphant eponymous debut in 1998, which won Best Mexican-American Music Performance in 1999. Guzman's Polkas, Gritos y Acordeónes, with David Lee Garza and Sunny Sauceda and produced by Guzman for the couple's label, Guzman Fox Records, won a Latin Grammy in 2005. Fox didn't have to travel far from her native Temple to land in Austin in 1983, yet she's circumnavigated the broad horizon of Latino music with style and charisma. Moving through a variety of bands led Fox down a rootsy path of R&B, funk, modern jazz, and music influenced by her Cuban roots, as her songwriting developed and she worked both sides of the microphone. Most recently, she and Guzman collected acclaim for their stirring Latinology on GFR records.
The question of why Austin's Latino music scene has no veteran women as standard-bearers is a puzzle for Fox, who relates it to the experience of her mother, Guadalupe Reyna Castillo. "She was a singer, but she gave it up, of course," relates Fox. "She got married and started having children. I was the last of nine kids, and she loved the fact that I showed an interest in music early. She was a powerful foundation, my biggest supporter. Her singing was incredible. The music industry has always been male-dominated, even more so in Latin music. Latin women have to fight a little harder to achieve success.
Los Aztex | On the Road
The road is no place to raise a family. Rock band, Journey said that once in a song, “Faithfully,” and they might have had a point. Driving to a recording studio to work on their next record, Sarah Fox and her husband Joel (pronounced Joe-el) Guzman of Tex/Mex rock band Los Aztex said they used to believe that.
“We always said we were too busy to have children,” Fox said. “Can you really have a family and be going back and forth on the road? Can you try to have a normal life?”
The couple, who appear on Mountain Stage Sunday night at the Culture Center, didn’t think it was possible, but they’d been in music for a good long while before they began to even entertain the idea of children seriously. The pair met Austin in 1978, where they both studied music. Guzman, from Washington State, played piano, and was considered a prodigy on the accordion.
Fox, a Texas native, studied voice, “My mother was Mexican American,” Fox explained. “Back in the day, she was something of a singer — sang traditional music, music from the 20s and old jazz. My father, he was full-blooded Cuban.” These different Latin flavors influenced her musical path. Fox thought it was weird that she was the only one in her family to take to music. "The only one out of nine kids,” she marveled.
In the early 1980s, the pair played in several different Latin music and Tejano groups, including the Grammy-winning Tejano band Little Joe Y La Familia. They also started several of their own groups, which fused different Latin styles with jazz, blues and rock. “But by 1995, we were really concentrating on our own music,” Fox said. Which might have seemed like the worst time to have a child. "But, we talked about it and said, ‘OK, we can have at least one,’” she said. Fox gave birth to a boy in 1996. They named him Gabriel, and the pair said having a baby didn’t really slow them down.
“It was a lot easier than we thought,” Fox said. Two months after Gabriel was born, Fox said they were back out on the road, with an infant in tow. “People helped us out,” Guzman explained. “They’d watch him for us, keep him for us over by the side of the stage.” “And having my sister out on the road as a nanny helped,” she said. “She’d hand him to me just as soon as we got off the stage.
“Gabriel was practically raised on the tour bus.”
They stayed busy, performing both with their own group and with different side projects. In the late 1990s, Los Aztex were part of the Latin music supergroup Los Super Seven, which also featured Freddy Fender, Joe Ely and David Hidalgo, among others. "That project won a Grammy,” Guzman said. Los Aztex didn’t stay on the road permanently, but frequently returned to Austin to continue crafting songs for the new CD.
Together, Fox and Guzman seem comfortable with where they are, like they’ve hit their stride. They love taking their own particular hybrid of blues with a southwestern flair and unleashing it on audiences, but it’s also nice to get home. “We have a life,” Guzman said. Their son Gabriel has stayed close.
“He plays guitar for us,” Guzman said proudly and laughed. “He loves it.”
May 19, 2015
Los Super Seven
(New York City, NY)
As Cesar Rosas counted off -- "Uno, dos, one, two, tres, cuatro!" -- and Los Super Seven (well, Los Super Eleven at that point) launched into its frenetic encore of "Wooly Bully", it was enough to make even the most cynical New Yorker smile. It should be illegal to have that much talent on one stage.
One of the most super of supergroups, Los Super Seven is a collection of musicians paying tribute to Mexican music. As if the seven core members -- Rosas, David Hidalgo, Freddy Fender, Joe Ely, Rick Trevino, Ruben Ramos, and Joel Guzman -- weren't super enough, the band added Steve Berlin and Los Aztex band members; Sarah Fox and Speedy Villanueva for the show, one of only three shows the band played to promote its self-titled RCA album that came out in mid-September.
In the liner notes for the CD, author John Sayles writes, "Los Super Seven is a place...[to] hear great storytellers play songs from the heart." The all-star band fulfilled that mission this night. Whether it was Ramos caressing each note on "La Madrugada" and "La Morena" or Rosas and Trevino dueting on "Margarita", each song was sung with heartfelt intensity. The instrumental work of Hidalgo, who played drums, fiddle, guitar and requinto (a smaller guitar that produces a more staccato sound), and Guzman, who proved himself a worthy replacement for Jimenez on the accordion, fueled each song and destroyed any existing language barriers.
In a concert of many peaks, perhaps the highest was reached with the mid-show arrival of Ely and Fender. Ely tore through "Gallo Del Cielo", upping the intensity with each verse, and Fender's version of the hypnotic "Un Lunes Por La Manana" featured a playful instrumental duel between Hidalgo's requinto and Guzman's accordion, with Ramos and Ely gleefully clapping along in the wings.
By the time the band closed with the rocking lilt of "El Canoero", the crowd finally began to let go, which, of course, meant lots of bad dancing. The awkward shuffling continued during the encores, with Fender singing his hits "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" and "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights" before the final jams on "Wooly Bully" and Ely's "Fingernails".
Each band member left the stage sporting a wide smile, much as they did after every song this night. One can only hope a Los Super Seven "Fiesta Grande" tour might be on the horizon.
Squeezing the Peedro Into an Accordion Festival
Random Lengths News / Los Angeles, CA - By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor & Zamná Ávila
June 30, 2012
featuring Joel Guzman and Sarah Fox
Guzman's accordion style ranges from the tropical sounds of cumbia and salsa, to Blues and Jazz. In a phone interview with Random Lengths News.
“I’ve kind of pushed myself to pursue music, challenge myself, across genres, without losing the beauty of conjunto and the soul of traditional music,” he said. “That’s pretty much my story.”
Guzman has a long list of artists he credits for as his influences. At the top of the list isRichard Galliano, a chromatic accordion player from France; master accordionist Angelo DiPippo, Rhode Island; Tony De La Rosa, an innovator that introduced electric amplification to a previously acoustic genre in the 1950s. De La Rosa, ike Guzman, also played the diatonic accordion; and then there’s Esteban Jordan, another diatonic accordionist. Guzman compares Jordan to Jimmy Hendrix in terms of sheer impact on conjunto. It’s not hard to see why. Jordan was a Hendrix-like genius when he played jazz, rock, blues, conjunto and Tejano music with his accordion.
And the crazy thing about this up coming performance at the Grand Performances is that Guzman is just half the excitement that’ll be on the stage, July 6. Well at least that would have been the case if the scheduling was right.The other half is his wife, Sarah Fox, who is so extraordinary that she’s incredible. Unfortunately you won’t get to hear thisGrammy award winning couple together on this evening.
Fox is an awesome and gifted vocal talent with bi-lingual singing abilities. On cuts like “Cumbia Mundial,” “Isla,” or “Sangre Azteca,” Fox’s vocals sets you at ease like you’re cruising on a sunny afternoon lulling you into a state of obliviousness to traffic jams on the freeways leading to downtown Los Angeles. The music on each of these are on a incredibly high level that you would assume get heavy rotation on stations like KJAZZ.
If you were just so fortunate to be at the Grand Performances, and Fox was there to properly pull off cuts such as “Pray for Peace” from their Latinology bag, the night might feel complete. Fox pulls out the deep, blue, blues on this cut. If you listen to a few seconds of this one, you might think her vocals were recorded in some juke joint on the border of east Texas and Louisiana. It’s a slow tempo groove, brimming with soul.
But on this night, Guzman will make up for the imbalance and certainly make you move.
Power Duo Break Ground With New Sound
by Contributing Editor Kerry Dexter
Joel Guzman & Sarah Fox, are well on the way to creating a unique voice. by drawing on urban roots, Sarah's background in R&B and salsa, bluegrass, my background in conjunto," Guzman said. "We didn't set out at first to do roots-based music, but really what we do is part of and parallels roots and folk music, which we love." Their debut album, Short Stories (1999), received a heat-seeker nod from Billboard magazine in March. Songs on Short Stories, which was produced by industry heavy Steve Berlin, include the powerful "Padre Prays for Rain" ), a fusion of Mexican folk music and Southern blues; "Amorique", a salsa-based dance tune featuring Fox's R&B style; and "Pajarillo Barranqueno" ), a traditional Mexican song that becomes a showcase for Guzman's innovative accordion playing and Fox's deep understanding of traditional styles. Fox and Guzman met Berlin last year when the Mexican American supergroup Los Super Seven — featuring Joe Ely, Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Rick Trevino and Flaco Jimenez — won a Grammy for their self-titled reworking of border-flavored roots music. Berlin called Guzman and Fox, who had worked on the album as backing musicians, to congratulate them. "I just blurted out to him, what would it take for you to produce an album for us?" Guzman said in a recent conversation in Austin, Texas, near his hill country home. "That's how it started." Well, really, of course, it started long before that. Fox, for instance, had learned woodwinds and then studied singing in high school in Texas. But even before then, at her home, she heard the music that would become the basis of her style. "We grew up speaking Spanish first, and I heard Mexican music from my mother and Cuban music from my father. But I was really interested in R&B. Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin were two of my favorites, and I remember loving Maria Muldaur's 'Midnight at the Oasis,' " she said. Guzman, for his part, was a child prodigy on the accordion, performing onstage with his family's band from the age of 4. "Looking back, because of starting at such a young age, I had a chance to play with some of the greats, likeTony de la Rosa and Lydia Mendoza, when they were still active," he said. Guzman, who grew up in Washington state, met Fox when he was working with the Tejano group Little Joe, Johnny y La Familia. Both became in demand as session players, and they worked with or formed their own bands, playing rhythm and blues, salsa and conjunto music. Gradually, they developed their own sound, a fusion of rock, Tejano, cajun, and conjunto, R&B and jazz. "I had been invited to play a conjunto festival in San Antonio for several years," Guzman said, "and I'd just get my friends together and we'd pull out all the old conjunto tunes. Then when we began working on the Aztex project, I asked Sarah to bring songs for a conjunto concert. When we got there I wanted to change the setlist but Sarah said, 'You ain't changin' nothin'!' ... So we went on with the show.," Guzman said. "Then (veteran conjunto songwriter and accordionist) Mingo Saldivar came up to me after the show and said, 'You guys are the ones who are going to do it, carry the music on' — he had tears in his eyes, and he was making me cry too. He gave us a blessing." Fox said.
October 15, 2013
LE GRAND SOUFFLET : UN AIR DE TEX-MEX AVEC LOS AZTEX
Cette nouvelle édition du Grand Soufflet nous invite à voyager à travers la musique mexicaine. Après avoir présenté plusieurs spectacles de cumbia, le festival a proposé aux Rennais un autre style : la musique tejano, dite aussi Tex-Mex.
C’est un autre registre, la musique tejano. Rien de comparable avec la cumbia, de Captain Cumbia ou celle d’Amandititita, qui nous entraine sur la piste de danse sans hésitation. Mardi dernier, à 20h30, la tendance est toute autre, le style est différent, permettant ainsi de découvrir une autre facette de la musique mexicaine.
Avec Los Aztex, l’accordéoniste Joel Guzman s’entoure d’un percussionniste, d’un guitariste et d’une chanteuse, Sarah Fox. Ensemble, ils forment un groupe harmonieux et mettent à l’honneur cette musique Tex-Mex créée par les populations hispaniques du Texas, dans laquelle se mêle folk et pop.
Douceur, sourire et plaisir partagé sont les maitres mots de ce concert qui a du mal à attirer la foule. Pourtant, les festivaliers qui ont répondu présents sont bel et bien sous le chapiteau, prêts à danser, gentiment, dans la fosse ou simplement à apprécier les rythmes et le lyrisme latin dont nous font part les quatre musiciens de Los Aztex.
En ce 15 octobre, la soirée se déroule paisiblement sur les airs emprunts de l’histoire forte d’une communauté hispano-américaine qui lie la musique à la question de l’identité et de la fierté.