Esteban Alvarez is an award-winning pianist and composer, originally from San José, Costa Rica. Ever since relocating to Texas USA to study music, his priority and goal has been to bridge cultures through my music. His idea was to bring the noble elegance of the piano together with the folkloristic vibrancy of the Mariachi. Hence he launched the album project entitled “Piano meets Mariachi”, which became a reality in 2017. The resulting recording features eight tracks and a 15-piece Mariachi band – El Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán, known as one of the best bands of their genre. The collective represents a very high standard. They are much more than a typical mariachi band; they are more like a total musical organization, featuring great musicianship and excellent singing too. Just when you thought everything in mariachi had been invented, when the festivals are getting monotonous and all orchestras seem to sound the same, up comes Esteban Alvarez to send a loud message with this collaborative effort.
Led with disarming charisma by Alvarez, the project proves itself way ahead of all others in collective and individual vocals and instrumentation, and with the mariachi arranged in a sophisticated and an ambitious way. In their everyday lives the members of this project obviously have the good sense to mix cultures other than their own.
Because of this their artistic selves have found the vocabulary to record music that is foreign to a majority of western cities without making it sound alien. In fact, the results are quite magnificent. This is one of those albums that make you appreciate quality over genre. Why listen to an average album in a genre of music you prefer, when you could be listening to a masterpiece by a band and artist you have never heard of in a genre you know little about.
Maybe people are so afraid of change that they don’t want to accept other genres of music or other cultures and maybe that’s why cities like LA feel so divided because everyone tries to distance themselves from change and form their own groups, and maybe it’s bands like El Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán and Esteban Alvarez that can bridge these gaps in our society. I’ve always found it difficult to connect with traditional mariachi artists simply due to my inability to understand the Spanish language.
Sure, I can get lost in the upbeat trumpet melodies or fast strummed vihuela but never much more than that. This is what sets “Piano meets Mariachi” apart. Combining Alvarez’s skillful piano playing with the Mariachi creates something really special that opens up the genre for a much wider audience.
El Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán still sound authentic and respectful of the music that they play, and the addition of the Alvarez’s piano merely helps to ensure that the project is exploring new smoother ground. And the combination enchants from the word go with the melodic mid-tempo “Amor Eterno” followed closely by the poignant “Has Amado Una Mujer de Veras” which showcases scintillating horns.
“Perfume de Gardenias” contains another sweeping arrangement with Esteban Alvarez delightfully carrying the melody. Further on “Me Has Echado Al Olvido” and “Adoro” both stake their claim as the album centerpieces. Rich and lusciously layered these songs are just as soothing as they are entertaining.
“Piano meets Mariachi” demonstrates that music is still a living, evolving form. The idea of cross-pollinating mariachi style with Alvarez’s piano is definitely a valid one. This album will set your heart ablaze and you won’t want to put it out.
Documentary of the album: