Leticia Rodriguez is a singer, bandleader, dancer, choreographer and the producer, writer and director of the one-woman show Canciones For Generations. To develop the show, she spent two years interviewing family members and, in the process, rediscovered the music of her aunt, Eva Garza.
Garza was one of the first internationally recorded bilingual artists to crossover in the United States. Her songs “Sabor de Engano” and “Celosa” helped establish Columbia Records in the Mexican market. She was the first Latin American artist to have her own radio show on CBS and, during World War II, was known as the Sweetheart of the Americas. “My mother and aunt told me I needed to record Aunt Eva’s song ‘Sagüita Al Bate,’” Rodriguez recalls. “It’s about a baseball player named Alberto ‘Sagüita’ Hernandez and describes the lamentations of a man being driven crazy by his “lady’s” obsession with baseball. It’s filled with double entendres. My aunt performed in Cuba in the late 50s, but, since I didn’t have a recording of it, I was unable to include it in the show.”
Canciones For Generations, and the music of her Aunt Eva, inspired Rodriguez to make her first album, La Americana, a collection of older Latin cha chas, boleros, and salsa, many from her aunt’s repertoire. On its release two years ago, it got rave reviews from Latin and jazz publications and was played on radio stations in the United States, England, Canada and Brazil. Last year, at a performance honoring Eva Garza in San Antonio, her daughter, the singer Rosa Maria Bojalil Garza, spontaneously sang “Sagüita Al Bate.” She had her sister, Laura Lydia Garza, sent Rodriguez copy of Garza’s recording, leading to the new EP.
The Sagüita Al Bate EP includes three songs from La Americana and a recording of “Sagüita Al Bate” Rodriguez made with her band. The title tune, “Sagüita Al Bate,” was written in the 50s as a mambo but Rodriguez and her Austin band play it as a cumbia/salsa fusion. Isaac Peña, who arranged the song with Scotty McIntosh, produced the track. The arrangement opens with Peña’s multi-tracked trumpets and the tenor and baritone saxes of McIntosh adding a conjunto-like feel to the proceedings. Greg Jones’ smooth guitar groove, Daniel Durham’s attention to the downbeat and Mosgofian’s cool rhythms and stops makes standing still impossible. The ensemble is peerless and Rodriguez, as is dictated by the saucy lyrics, sings it with a wry, theatrical flair.
“Milonga Sentimental” was originally a tango. “Austin drummer, Mike Koenning, put a Mozambique rhythm to it,” Rodriguez explains. “Some people call it a cumbia, or jokingly a rumbia – a rumba plus cumbia.” Travis Davis adds syncopated Cuban piano fills to the accordion work of Carlos Alvarez and Koenning’s relentless groove. Augustin Lara wrote “La Cumbancha” as a waltz, but Garza played it as a mambo. Rodriguez turns it into a son featuring Lisa Morales on harmony vocals and intricate multi-layered percussion laid down by Henry Brun and Koenning. “Incertidumbre” is a classic bolero. Rodriguez delivers a passionate vocal, backed by simple guitar and percussion accompaniment.
Rodriguez grew up in Texas in a family of performers. “I excelled in school, but my passion was always for the stage and anything that promoted the idea that art was transformative.” Rodriguez married and raised a family, but continued performing as a dancer, actor and musician. “My challenge as a woman was figuring out how to combine living in the world as a Latin mother and artist.” She worked as a teacher, choreographer, producer and writer for Believe in Me, a performance company that brought children onstage for collaborative performances. She created her own company, Performance Encounters, in 2004, writing, performing, directing and producing works that explored the assimilation of Latinos in Texas. While creating Canciones For Generations, she rediscovered her love of singing and the music of her aunt Eva Garza. The show inspired La Americana as well as the Sagüita Al Bate EP. “While creating this EP, I realized that by claiming my full name, Leticia Rodriguez Garza, I could immediately convey my deep connections to family, music and my Aunt Eva Garza. And, so I did.”
Rodriguez Garza will be supporting the EP with live performances and radio and press interviews. She’s currently working on another album for release in 2015. It will feature songs from Garza’s repertoire, as well as original music by Rodriguez Garza and her band.
Fri./Sat. 09/12/14 & 09/13/14 @Lusos [MORE INFO] – Seattle, WA
Thu. 09/18/14 @ Central Market North [MORE INFO] – Austin, TX
Sat. 09/20/14 @ Swan Dive [MORE INFO] – Austin, TX
Fri./Sat. 10/17/14 @ Texas Jazz Festival [MORE INFO] – Corpus Christi, TX
Sat. 11/15/14 @ Swan Dive [MORE INFO] – Austin, TX
Sun. 12/07/14 – Thu. 12/18/14 @ Havana Jazz Festival [MORE INFO] – Havana, Cuba
Sat. 12/20/14 @ Swan Dive [MORE INFO] – Austin, TX