In doing research about San Diego musician who have their roots in Logan Heights, I encountered a lot of stories about the great rock and roll bands and performers like Benny Holman, George “Chato” Ruiz, Larry Green, Ronnie Montoya, Peggie Menifee, Steve Andrews and so many others too numerous to mention.
My friend and San Diego music legend Aubrey Fay Shared stories about Fro Brigham, Bid Daddy Rucker and other stars in the black community, all great performers who never got the recognition or credit they so richly deserved.
As I begin to focus on jazz, I was struck by the fact that there was very little information or stories about jazz performers connected to Logan Heights or even San Diego.
In an effort to find out more I contacted Abel Montelongo, who as a musician and lifelong jazz fan, knows and appreciates jazz and is a storehouse of knowledge about Charlie Parker, Dizzy, Cal Tjader, Eddie Cano and other jazz greats.
When I asked him what areas he thought has some of the greatest jazz talent, he quickly responded Tijuana in the 1950’s.
To my amazement he told me how musicians from Tijuana were the pioneers of jazz in Mexico. The Tijuana sound, as it was called, grew out of the cabarets, casinos and night life of Tijuana during the 1920’s and 30’s.
The music came from generations of musical families who came to Tijuana to seek work and opportunity. At the onset, most of the cabarets used only American musicians.
This led to the unionizing of Mexican musicians, creating an environment where American musicians were no longer allowed to perform. As the 1940’s approached, the sons of the earlier generation of musicians who had led the unionizing effort were now performing in all the major venues and they were moving forward musically as well, by the influences of the big band sound coming across the radio waves from the United States. Things would never be the same from this point forward; Tijuana would become a spawning ground for great musicians to come like Santana, Fito De La Parra from Canned Heat and many others.
Most agree that the foundation for the Tijuana sound came from the improvisations of Jose “Che-Che” Sanchez, a leading figure of the times, playing all the most popular Tijuana nite spots. This was the framework of a sound that was developed by many others musicians contributing their individual creative juices to a sound that would one day flourish throughout Mexico.
The Tijuana sound took full force during the 1950’s through exponents like Esteban Favela, a sax player who is regarded as one of the musicians who took the Tijuana sound to Mexico City and thus, the entire country.
The jazz scene in Mexico flourished today because these Tijuana music pioneers took a chance to share their music, a music taht proudly bears the name “Tijuana.”
In appreciation I would like to share with you their names in recognition of their varied contribution to music in Tijuana: Raul Carreon, Esteban Favela, Manuel Hernandez, Francisco Aviles (El Panchon), Rudolfo Peralta (El Plato), Humberto Peralta (El Platito), Raymundo Balbuena, Los Pitulos (Jose Vasquez, Carlos Vasquez, Raymundo Vasquez), La Foca Esquer, Miquelito Bravo, Gaby Bravo, Teofilo Cuevas, Tigre Sanchez, P. Aranda, David and Jaime Moran, Los Travelers.