Flaco Jimenez makes accordions sing with Tex-Mex flavor
September 15, 1999
From Sherri Sylvester
HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- Mexico's Flaco Jimenez is something of a contradiction. He's a Latin musician who's won multiple Grammy Awards over the last 45 years -- for playing the accordion, an instrument inextricably linked in many people's minds with bratwurst and sauerkraut.
And yet, there he is, as musically active as he's ever been, with two new albums out this year ("Best Of Flaco Jimenez" and "One Night At Joey's") and still playing in the conjunto style that he learned from his father, Santiago Jimenez. Conjunto combines the oompah of a European polka with the tang of Tex-Mex.
While the elder Jimenez is often called the father of conjunto music, Flaco was determined to find his own voice, outside of his father's lengthy shadow.
"I started changing it," he says, "to more up-to-date music -- from country to rock 'n' roll, whatever came by my path."
And plenty has crossed his path during 45 years of performing. Jimenez has five Grammy Awards and a Billboard lifetime achievement award.
'Spontaneous jamming is what makes music'
But for this musician, it isn't about the accolades. It's about a style that touches his soul.
"Spontaneous jamming is what makes music, you know, so everybody can do their part. I mean, free as a breeze, and it's only fun to do."
Jimenez enjoys mixing business with pleasure. His latest video features his comedian friend, Paul Rodriguez.
"I know everybody makes fun of accordionists," says Rodriguez. "But he actually played with the Rolling Stones." In other words, he's no Lawrence Welk. "There's no bubbles. He's a real Mexican," Rodriguez says.
He has also combined forces with the likes of Bob Dylan and Linda Ronstadt. And he still spins with the Texas Tornadoes, a group formed after a concert jam session nine years ago. They are now releasing their sixth album, "Live From the Limo, Volume One."
They may be called the Tex-Mex super group, but the Tornadoes are tough to pigeonhole.
"Is it Tejano?" asks Jimenez. "Is it country with Freddy? Is it rock 'n' roll with Doug? Or hey baby, que pasa with Auggie? Who knows?"
One thing we do know: Jimenez may not have the teen fans screaming, but he is living la vida conjunto and loving it.
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