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Cinthia Rodriguez El Observador 

Cinthia Rodriguez
El Observador

Not a stranger to Bay Area jazz festivals, musician Pete Escovedo will once again take the stage at next week’s Music in the Park at St. James Park in downtown San Jose. He’s been working as much as he can putting a new CD together with his orchestra, trying to create something different, but also rewarding to his fans. He’s also been working on his autobiography, which he plans to have ready by the end of this year. With all that going on, he still made time to answer a few questions with El Observador.

EO: What are you and your band up to now?

Escovedo: I’m combining a couple of things together. I think for the most part, people that know my history, me and my brother Coke had a band called Azteca back in the 70’s, and with the orchestra I do more Latin jazz than anything but now I’m kind of combining the two styles of music. So I’m putting together sort of a different kind of band that can play the Azteca songs and can do Latin jazz. Combining the two has been interesting. I’m really enjoying it, because some of that music that we played back in the 70’s still holds up today. It’s interesting stuff that we did back then so it’s a lot of fun to play those songs. By combining both styles, it makes for a better sound, a better presentation of what I do. It’s working out fine.

EO: You’ve been on stage with big names. What have been some of your favorite moments?

Escovedo: When I was younger and just starting out, I was very privileged to meet Tito Puente. I met him when I was like 18 or 19 years old and we have been friends ever since then, but the very first time I had a chance to play with him that was one of the great thrills of my life, to be able to play with a person that I idolized and looked up to for so many years. We did a video and actually recorded together. All of that was such a great honor for me; to not only know him but to perform with him.

EO: You were in Japan because your daughter was playing. How cool is that? To have your kids doing what you do?

Escovedo: You want your kids to grow up and just be a joy to your life and they have certainly been a joy to my life. My kids, they all play music, they are all incredible musicians, they have been in the business a long time, they have played with so many great people, they have accomplished so much on their own, each and every one of them. For me to get a chance to play with them, when we do perform together it is such a blessing for me, just looking back at them when they were kids, now they are adults and are great musicians. It’s just a dream come true.

EO: You are coming back next week to the bay area? How does that feel?

Escovedo: I am throwing a couple of shows in the bay area. My first one is in San Jose at the park, Music in the Park. I’m doing that. And then on the 24th, I play at the Filoli Mansion in Woodside. I’m looking forward to that. In September I’m doing the Monterey jazz festival, which actually this would be the first time that I will play the Monterey jazz festival with my own orchestra. I’m really looking forward to that.

EO: So this might be a hard question to answer, but if you weren’t a musician what do you think you would be doing?

Escovedo: I definitely know what I would be doing. I would be spending more time on my artwork. I actually started painting when I was in high school. I had a wonderful art teacher, she took a very close liking to me and helped me and she set up a scholarship for me and just everything and I was headed that way. She actually got me an apprentice job with an advertising company to do the billboards, paint the billboards. I mean I was all set, I had a job and I had a scholarship to go to college. I was all set. I mean I dropped all of that to play music. If I hadn’t chosen that road, I would have definitely chosen to be an artist. I still paint and still do exhibits and some of my stuff has been in some galleries. And of course I have done a lot of my own illustrations on my CDs. I recently just did illustrations for the Salsa de la Bahia with Wayne Wallace. It took me a little over a year, but I finally finished all the artwork at the Cupertino Inn. Which is a hotel over by the Apple Corporation in Cupertino. I had a great time doing that. A little different from the style of art that I do. I generally just paint what I feel, but I had to kind of mellow down my feelings to do stuff in the hotel. I got to to do something that these people can go to sleep. If they look at something I don’t want them to trip out. The woman who ran the hotel, she was so nice and she gave me a free hand. She said to just do what you think is appropriate. She loved everything I did. All my work is in there. In every room. I always tell people if you want to spend the night with Pete Escovedo go to that hotel. You won’t regret it.


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