Banda El Recodo (Courtesy photo)
Along both sides of the Texas-Mexico border region, accordion-based conjunto, norteño and Tejano rules the airwaves and serves as a reminder of the cultural cross-pollination that resulted when the early German settlers first introduced their button-row squeeze boxes to the area. During their westward trek across the continent, those early eastern European immigrants must have set down their Hohners by the time they reached Sinaloa, the birthplace of banda - but shared their tubas and trombones, instruments that give the brassy, bouncy, horn-and-woodwind driven music its distinctive sound and defining characteristics.

It seems only fitting that Banda El Recodo de Cruz Lizárraga, the longest-running group still performing today, hails from that northern Mexican state. Don Lizárraga formed the group in 1938, influenced by the surging popularity of the Big Band sound popular in the United States at the time; today his sons continue to perform with the multi-generational group. Meanwhile, during the '90s, the genre enjoyed an upsurge in popularity which continues to the present.

Friday, October 3
Randy's Ballroom
1534 Bandera Rd.
Banda El Recodo's most recent recording, No Me Se Rajar, is a blend of contemporary and classic songs, including their covers of mariachi classics like "De Que Manera Te Olvido," here as upbeat as anything else on the disc. In both their original material and their nods to traditional composers, they succeed in sounding fresh and surprisingly timeless, by eschewing the artificiality of keyboards and synthesizers for the real deal - a 16-piece outfit which includes at least three guys on trombone, two on clarinet and a tuba player. (As a nice little promotional gimmick, included with the album are lotería cards featuring the band's members and instruments.) All this gives them a full, heavy and energetic sound akin to multi-piece salsa combos or swing bands, where bigger is better and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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