It is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. First things first: La Maquinaria Norteña, the Zaca-huahuan/New Mexican quintet that stands astride this genre like a saxophone colossus, has just released its ninth-I-think album in a decade, Generación Maquinaria Est. 2006 (alternate title: Saxo de Cumpleaños). Thanks to some major label Fonovisa distribution, and because they’re on the scene like máquinas saxuales, they sold 3,000 copies of the album its first week. That was enough to debut at #1 on Billboard‘s Latin Albums chart.
Agosto may be slow, but Maquinaria isn’t. Generación skips along in typical unrelenting fashion; the polka beats are sharp and nonstop, brothers Keith and Rory Nieto fill nearly every instant with well-plotted sax/accordion ideas, and Ivan Gutierrez winds his bass through the proceedings like a buoyant breeze. You can hear all this on their current hit “Todo Es Diferente” (subtitle: “… Excepto El Saxo”), but NorteñoBlog notes two other standouts. Keith’s original “El Corazón No Miente” throws in a slamming surprise ending, with electric guitar and drums bashing away; and singer Sergio Soto contributes a new breakneck waltz that sounds old, “Cosquillitas” (i.e., “¡¡¡Tickle Sax!!!”). Maquinaria’s quality is a difference of degree: the group simply sounds fuller, richer, and more distinctive than other puro sax bands. Once you go Maq, you’ll never go back.
So instead we’ll head over to the more mysterious Coloradans-or-possibly-Chicagoans in Los Traficantes del Norte, a six-piece who’ve recorded umpteen albums and designed as many band logos. Los Traficantes apply their sax to corridos as well as dance tunes; their new album for Joey, Pueblo Sin Luz (i.e. Saxo En La Oscuridad), looks about half and half. Furthermore, their singer, whose name is putting NorteñoBlog’s Google skills to the test, sings with a nasally whine straight out of the Chihuahuan Sierra, swooping into his stories’ high notes with effortless charm. Sax is woven more subtly into the mix, at times blending with the accordion so they sound like one instrument. Los Traficantes songs are good fun if a bit interchangeable; big surprise I went for “Cumbia Tequila.” (Cue the dude from Riot: “Sax! And tequila!!!“)
Cumbias but no corridos for Konzentido de Afid Ferrer, a saxtet hailing from all over the place. (Including a sax player from Chicago! Hometown!) Their new single “Duele El Amor” (followup single: “Curación Saxual”) is only available as a preview snippet, but it’s a promising rocker-turned-polka, and the moment when the sax riff kicks in is everything you want from this music. Previous single “Un Regalo de Amor” (alternate title: “Saxo En Una Caja”) throws in some relatively complex chord changes. NorteñoBlog slept on Konzentido’s 2015 album for the Garmex label, Inconfundible, and its Shakespeare-biting single “Quieres Ser Mi Julieta” (aka “Saxo Con Una Menor”). My mistake! From the group shouts in “Julieta,” to the mission statement and Pick to Click “Vulgar y Corriente” (a cover of Los Tiranos del Norte), to the big dumb saxo cumbia medley “Pupurri Cumbias,” these guys offer up gimmick after gimmick to keep listeners coming back. What a concept: sax and candy.