Sergio Lara and Joe Reyes
Sergio Lara and Joe Reyes' first release for Higher Octave Music, "Guitarras Hermanas," drew high praise from throughout the musical community...Jonathan Widran called the music "stirring, emotional and infinitely finger-snapping" in Jazziz, the Gavin Report cited the duo's "fiery licks as well as crafted melodic phrases," and Acoustic Musician's Jon Sirkis commended the album's "...terrific assortment of modern guitar music (with) blazing guitar solos."
So what could Higher Octave offer as a follow-up? Nothing less than Lara & Reyes' first album, "Two Guitars-One Passion." Recorded independently in 1992, the album was available only at the duo's concerts and in a limited number of record stores around their home of San Antonio, Texas.
"When we started playing together, we put together a test repertoire to see what we could do," comments Sergio Lara. "With these ten songs, we had found a style, which is, basically, Latin guitar within a jazz framework."
Like "Guitarras Hermanas," the album includes several Lara & Reyes originals, together with some outside songs that demonstrate the breadth of their taste and influence-from a melody from Bizet's opera "Carmen" to the classic mariachi tune 'La Bikina' to jazz pianist Chick Corea's 'Spain.'
Born and raised in Mexico City, Sergio Lara began taking guitar lessons at the age of nine; South Texan Joe Reyes received his first guitar at seven. "When you start out learning an instrument, most of the time they to teach you to accompany yourself singing, "though we both found out early in our careers that we were not destined to be singers." The two grew up, a nation apart, playing in rock 'n' roll and blues bands. When he met Joe, Sergio has moved with his family to San Antonio, and was playing steel-string guitar and mandolin in a David Grisman-inspired ensemble called the New Acoustic Unit and as a sideman with various folk singers. Joe was playing in a jazz-rock fusion band, and acoustic music at home. "We both had the desire to work in an acoustic guitar-based format, something that didn't have tons of synthesizers. We soon discovered that we had something special musically, a very rare kind of rapport.
"We were experimenting with odd tempos, swing, all kinds of styles. But as we started playing live, we discovered that people wanted to hear more of the Latin influence in our music. Most of the people that I really like to hear are very true to their roots. That doesn't mean that they'll only play the folk music of their native countries, but it is in their blood."
Of the songs on "Two Guitars-One Passion," Lara notes, "Most of what we do is based on very fundamental rhythms of Latin America-the rumba, the meringue, and some of the waltzes. 'Obsidiana' is very influenced by Peruvian waltzes, for instance. Instead of the bass, we use an instrument called the zurdo, which is a big, Peruvian drum. "'Spain' is just guitars, with no bass or percussion. We wanted to do something in the tradition of the super trio-John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia. The third guitarist on the cut is José Perello, from Spain. His style is very traditional flamenco. 'Seguidilla' is from George Bizet's "Carmen." It's just a little bit of the tune, and we don't play it exactly the way it was written, but we like the melody, and wanted to jam on it. 'Dia de Fiesta' was written for a celebration; kind of a fair and carnival thing that takes place every year in San Antonio. 'La Bikina' is a very romantic melody that I used to hear as a kid in Mexico-if a mariachi doesn't know the song, he can't be a real mariachi, he must be from Germany or something! It's a very hard piece; quite jazzy for a mariachi. The long intro is to showcase our percussion player, Eric Casillas. When we released our demo tapes as the album Two Guitars-One Passion our version of 'La Bikina' was already playing on the radio, locally."
By the time "Two Guitars-One Passion" was released in san Antonio, both Joe Reyes and Sergio Lara were receiving top honors in the San Antonio News's annual media awards. Both have won the acoustic guitar category, for instance, and Sergio's mandolin playing won him a first place award in the miscellaneous instrument category. The two have won the San Antonio Current award as "Best Latin Band" for two years running.