Another Aztlan Legend from the Barrio
East L.A.'s Aaron Ballesteros, drummer extraordinaire
For over 35 years, I have been cruisin', bruisin', and boogalooing to the East Side Sounds of Chicano Music in Los Angeles. As a dancing lowrider from back in the day who still enjoys kickin' up the chancla when the mood is right, I was lucky to come of age just when Chicano Music was able to be described as such, and appreciated much....time was right for "the kid" in the Land of 1000 Dances.
Published on LatinoLA: November 8, 2005
The hot sounds of Aztlan have been epitomized in my soul since I was a teenager by 3 classic Chicano groups from East L.A. that I have been able to catch live numerous times, and hail their continuing legacy of providing some of the legendary sounds that draw upon 3 generations as their ever loyal fan base.
Those three groups being TIERRA, EL CHICANO, and THEE MIDNITERS. The current varsity members of performing East Side Sound veteranos.
The members and musical arrangements may change from time to time, but the style and beat remain the same: MAS CHINGON y TODO DE AQUELLAS . What also remains constant is the "floorboard" of the music, the foundation of the rythm, the tribal beat of Aztlan that these three groups all have come to depend upon:
...the man behind the classic "green sparkle" metalflake Ludwig drums....Mr. Aaron Ballesteros.
Another one of East L.A.'s favorite sons, and another disciple of Salesian High School's Bill Taggert, Aaron's resume reads like a who's who in big league music.
Names like TIERRA, EL CHICANO, LOS LOBOS, JAMES BROWN, TITO PUENTE, MALO, THE BEACH BOYS, WAR, IKE & TINA TURNER, FREDDY HUBBARD, HUBERT LAWS, PONCHO SANCHEZ, MARY WELLS, ROSIE & THE ORIGINALS, THE DRIFTERS, LITTLE JOE HERNANDEZ, FLACO JIMENEZ, WAYNE HENDERSON, WILLIE BOBO, and Thee Midniters are some of the performing artists that have called upon Aaron to play, write, or produce for.
A man of many talents, (including a black belt in Martial Arts), I met Aaron a couple of years ago at a show we did together while he was playing with TIERRA. Very approachable, very humble, and very talented, his quiet low key demeanor belies the dynamic stage performer who was once told by the legendary James Brown in front of a crowd after he performed with him "...not EVERYONE can play with James...but you can!...". He was also described by Tito Puente as "...able to play with anyone in the World!".
...those kind of props from those kind of Legends an artist waits a lifetime for...
Thus, Aaron Ballesteros, a Chicano from East L.A., has more than made his mark on the Music world, and the Gente de Aztlan have another warrior to be proud of. Since meeting him, we have easily become friends, as I was pleasantly suprised when he told me he was a fan of my show.
...that kind of prop from that kind of Legend a DJ might wait 2 lifetimes for!...(But I'm glad I didn't! Ha!)
When Texas's all time classic Tejano Internet DJ "Crazy Chuy " Hernandez made a visit to California ealier this year, one of the stops on his itinerary was catching a TIERRA concert. Admitting he was a big fan of the group, I saw him smile & stare in deep admiration for Aaron when he hit one of his now legendary drum solos that have crowds "ooh-ing" and "ahh-ing" before their thunderous applause. Afterwards, when I told Chuy that he could meet Rudy Salas and the guys backstage while I interviewed them for a story, Chuy lit up and said "Hell, I want to meet that drummer!".Upon introducing them, Chuy admitted he too, was a drummer, and he and Aaron hit it off like homies.
A couple of months ago, Santa Barbara singer Pepe Marquez and I attended a concert by TIERRA , and he too, was mezmerized by the "guy behind the green metalflake drumset". Meeting the band backstage afterwards, Aaron was the first to wamly welcome "the new guy" to L.A., along with East L.A. music icon Rudy Salas.
...Aaron's like that. A real nice guy with a lot talent, my homie from East L.A.
Without hesitation , he graciously granted my request to be the first to premier his first solo CD on my show, guest on my show along with music promoter Steven Chavez, and be interviewed for this story on LatinoLA.
All three requests have been learning experiences and an in depth look into the "guy behind the green metalflake Ludwig drumset" (His trademark).
Besides being described as probably one of the finest drummers in the world, Aaron also sings, plays many different instruments, writes , and produces.
His new CD "APB- Be on the look out" (available at Tower Records) is a cacophony of beautiful sound, colors and blended Chicano soul, reflecting Aaron's 4 loves: His Woman, his family, his people, and his music. The Cd has 14 masterfully performed tracks and a bonus DVD that show his in-depth versatility, and the versatility of the talented friends who join him on this, his first solo project.
With the hauntingly soulful vocals of El Chicano's Gilbert Stokes, the powerful bass of TIERRA's Steve Falomir, some top notch guitar & back up vocals by Dennis Alvarez, Aaron himself plays several instuments and sings, and is joined on some tracks by Poncho Sanchez, WAR's Tex Nakamura, Los Lobos' Cesar Rosas, and saxaphonist extraordinnaire Victor Cisneros. The genres played easily take you on a Southern Califas cruise thru Reggea, Oldies, Rock, Funk, and good old Chicano Cruisin' Latin Soul. Just what you want to hear!
To hear Chicanos go through these paces proudly make me think of how far Chicano artists have come, and made their deep impression upon American music, for the pride of the Chicano people.
During the recent radio show , in which music producer Steven Chavez was hearing the music on the air for the very first time (something I don't usually do when he guests on my show), all he could do was smile, gently rock his head & shoulders, and say "that's nice...real nice, brother" as he enjoyed the music. Aaron had to pull out a copy and autograph it for him, to which Steven thanked him over the air.
2 Chicano Music heavies giving love & respect the way it should be done...and on my show!! Gracias, mi hermanos!(Got it on tape, too!)
Add to that cover art work & design, camera footage on the DVD, and of course ,a lot of love like only a Brown woman can give, Aaron credits his Lady Clarisa as one of the biggest motivating factors in the success of this project and his life.
..."She gots my back", he proudly told us...I know the honor, carnal.
APB ~ Be On The Lookout~ a new CD by Aaron Ballesteros. Pick one up, mi Gente!
...satisfy yourself with some fine Chicano music!
note: for more info on Aaron Ballesteros & APB logon to www.APBmusic.org. You can hear Aaron's music on the 2nd Time Around Show and the Chicano Express Radio Show on Internet Radio~ coast to coast, and around the World!
Frankie Firme's website: www.frankiefirme.50megs.com