Latino: Grupos


CRYSTAL WAS LAST year's grupos runner-up--this year the band took first place. With the tight, harmonized vocals characteristic of their group, and selections from a large book of traditional Mexican popular music, Crystal performs the music well-loved in Sonora and beyond with warmth and style.

Band Photo Together barely five years, Crystal has steadily gained popularity. They've hit the road recently, working in other towns in Arizona, in Mexico, Texas and soon in Colorado.

Unlike some of the other Southwestern urban centers, Tucson has accomplished, professional groups representing all the major Mexican and Mexican-American styles--norteño, Tex-Mex, mariachi and groupos, and Tucson's bands are more in demand for work on the road than ever before. Grupos like Crystal help get the word out that Tucson is a major source of top bands.

Last year, gaining recognition through placing second in the TAMMIES and the debut of some of their cuts on Radio Pantera didn't hurt either. The promo spot featuring Crystal still runs on Univision (Telemundo). Now Crystal can only take one day off a week from their schedule of playing and rehearsing material for their second CD.

Electronic keyboards and a drum machine may not seem immediately identifiable with traditional Mexican music, but the grupos style somehow combines all the traditional dance musics like cumbias, baladas, rancheras, corriedos, and bandas with modern electronic instruments into an appealing and totally danceable whole.

Instead of the accordion-brass combination of Tex-Mex with guitar accompanying the accordion, or the norteño style, that backs up the accordion with the bajo sexto, grupos rely on keyboards as a harmonic centerpiece. That difference changes the whole sound of the music and also changes they way chords and harmonies are played.

But what distinguishs Crystal from their peers is something more elusive, something in their spirit; according to Francisco Castro (keyboards). He says the group has great appreciation for the support of their family, friends and fans they have had since the beginning. Crystal is strong because they feel like a big family.

In fact, the band is an even bigger family these days. In the last year they added one more player to the unbroken circle - Armando Negrete (bass, voice). The original members are: Jesus Padilla (drum machine), Jose Luis Rodriguez (bass, voice), Nadir Sanchez (guitar, voice), Francisco Castro (keyboards) and Martin Miranda (percussion, voice). They still want even one more member now, a producer.

The warmth and support they feel for each other comes through when they play, and since the grupos style of music was made for dancing, a really good time can't be avoided when Crystal begins its set.
--Janice Jarrett


EVEN BEFORE THEY won last year's TAMMIE in this category, Accion Versatil Latina Reflexion had been heard in Texas, California, Baja California, Arizona and their native Sonora, Mexico. They also made appearances on media giants Univision and Telemundo--you can't get much better recognition in the world of Latin music.

They've been playing out of town just about since they moved here from Cananea, Mexico in 1987, and in just five short years from then, their CD, Reflexion: Y No Es Cuento, gained well- deserved air play in major Mexican-American and Mexican markets.

Their music is easy to dance to. With their strong harmonies, the traditional cumbias, baladas, rancheras and bandas are livened by electronic drums, electronic accordion and keyboards. Still going strong are Reflexion's Jose Vicente Mendoza (drums), Jose Oscar Castellanos (voice), Raul Perez (percussion and voice), Marco A. Hernandez ("teclados"), Manual de Jesus Miranda (guitar), and Francisco "Moses" Pasquiera (leader, bass player and voice).
--Janice Jarrett


© 1995 Tucson Weekly