Y la Orkesta's New Album, Song by Song

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Sergio Mendoza will bring an extra large band for Y la Orkesta’s performance Saturday at Hotel Congress. It’s an album release show for Mambo Mexicano!, the debut from Mendoza’s indie-mambo band.

Produced by Mendoza and Calexico’s Joey Burns, Mambo Mexicano! features contributions by a cast of more than 20 musicians. The album was recorded between November 2010 and January 2012, mostly at Wavelab Studio with engineering from Chris Schultz, Jack Sterbis and Craig Schumacher. Two tracks were produced at Waterworks Recording with Jim Waters.

Below, Mendoza describes the album, song by song, for the Tucson Weekly.

1. “Mambo Mexicano”
It’s probably the one that is the most mambo influenced. It’s one of the first songs that I wrote thinking in the Perez Prado style. It has Joey Burns, John Convertino and Jacob Valenzuela from Calexico, and Tom Hagerman from DeVotchKa playing violin. It features Salvador Duran on vocals and mambo yells.

2. “La Cucharita”
“La Cucharita” came in a week before I had to send the album off to Europe for the label to approve it to be out by April. We needed an extra song. We had been playing it live already, so we decided to record it at Waterworks with Jim Waters. I sing lead vocals on that one and we also have John Convertino playing drums and Joey Burns on guitars.

3. “Molino Rojo”
It’s a bar in Nogales, Sonora. This is like a 40-second segue. Even though it’s instrumental, it talks about what this bar would be, really mysterious. It’s painted yellow outside and I always wondered what it’s like inside. To this day I still don’t know what it’s like. It’s just one of those dive bars in Nogales, kind of like the place you don’t want to be in.

4. “Amada Amante”
It’s another instrumental, and it features Marco Rosano on the clarinet. It’s like a psychedelic Latin love song.

5. “Toma Tres”
It’s a 6/8, bluesy, jazzy riff. It’s one of those songs we open up live for musicians to improvise. That one’s a lot of fun to play with the big band that we’re going to have for our CD release party, maybe 20 musicians onstage.

6. “Mambo in the Dark”
That one I wrote after I got back from tour with DeVotchKa. I saw a band called Forro in the Dark in New York—it’s the traditional samba style from Brazil. I saw those guys and was blown away by their instrumentation—just a triangle, guitar, saxophone and flute and just one drum. They’re amazing. They just rock it. They use traditional instruments and turn it into a psychedelic, Os Mutantes kind of thing. I took the idea from them to write a song with triangle, just the bass drum and shaker, taking the style but turning it into something else.

7. “Mario Tambien Come”
This is the second that was recorded at Waterworks. We just nailed it in one day, recorded and mixed. It’s a funny story, but I’ll leave it mysterious.

8. “Mambo Dukesa”
I wrote it for my dog, Chato. I came up with “Mambo Chato” and for the record, I changed it to “Mambo Dukesa,” which was my dad’s dog when he was a little kid. I thought it was a cooler name for the record. It has this voice saying dog names, all of which I got from this post on Facebook I put up for people to tell me dog names to use. It’s got a bark at the end, just a funny little song.

9. “Orkesta y Sonido”
That one I wrote along with Marco Rosano and recorded parts of it here in Tucson and the second part in Mexico City with Camilo Lara from Mexican Institute of Sound. It’s another little segue with some cool stuff in it.

10. “Traicionera”
That one I wrote about a girl who left me. Triacionera means someone who does treason. It’s a like a country-Western and has a sing along, just singing how this girl left you, and you’re really upset. I call it a "spaghetti mambo."

11. “Suenos Amargos”
I wrote it along with Gabriel Sullivan and Brian Lopez. We wrote it in the van while touring in Europe. Nick Urata, the singer from DeVotchKa, sings the lead vocals. It’s the first time he’s ever done an entire song in Spanish. Tom Hagerman from DeVotchKa plays violin.

12. “El Embarrado”
The American version (of the album) has an extra song. I co-wrote it with Salvador Duran. It has a lot of violins and I really like the way we ended up combining the violins with the brass and the dance beat and Salvador’s vocal performance.

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