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February, 2016

Los Jazz Vatos have recorded a new CD titled “El Jefe!”


El Jefe Cover Art

Available at iTunes and CDBaby

(MP3 files available at iTunes and CDBaby. Lossless FLAC files and MP3-320 files are available at CDBaby.)



Thirteen years after their first release, this Latin-tinged jazz project of drummer Ernie Durawa – who plays every Tuesday at Strange Brew with a rotating cast of guests – is a joyful 11-song instrumental affair. Horns (Freddie Mendoza, Jimmy Shortell, Steven Vague) and keyboards (Terry Bowness) trade licks back and forth as Durawa and bassist Brad Taylor lay down low-key but always lively rhythms underneath. Los Jazz Vatos’ live shows appear to be very few and far between, but on record, they’re a hidden treasure.

Peter Blackstock, Austin360 On The Record, April 21, 2016


Los Jazz Vatos is the brainchild of Ernie Durawa. Durawa was born in San Antonio but lives in Austin. As a drummer Durawa possesses a unique ability to totally transcend stylistic barriers. Durawa has performed with Charlie Byrd, Larry Coryell, Herb Ellis, Townes Van Vandt, and Willie Nelson. Durawa was also drummer and bandleader for Delbert McClinton. Durawa however is known best for his work with both The Sir Douglas Quintet and The Texas Tornados. He appears on The Texas Tornado’s “Live from Austin, Tx” CD and on their country singles including “Does Anybody Know The Way To San Antonio” for which he won a Grammy. Durawa also plays with Johnny Nicholas’ Texas All-Stars.

Los Jazz Vatos (The Jazz Dudes) were formed in 2000. They play Latin Jazz the way they do down in Austin. The band consists of Jimmy Shortell, trumpet, flugelhorn, and accordion; Freddie Mendoza, trombone; Steven Vague, tenor saxophone; Terry Bownness, keyboards; Brad Taylor, bass; and Durawa, drums. Guest musicians include Mark Rubenstein, piano; jose Galeano, percussion; and Rick McRae, guitar.

Mendoza has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Teryy, Wynton Marsalis and many others. Mendoza, who also currently plays with The Heartland Big Band is the primary composer. The title track opens with Durawa’s drums and Galeano’s percussion. Shortell’s trumpet establishes the infectious melody. It is followed by impressive solos from Vague on sax, Mendoza on trombone, and Bowness on piano.

Mendoza has written three other compositions “6th Street Messin Round,” “Melissa,” and the closer “jay Jay’s Blues.” Mendoza has also re-arranged Herbie Hancock’s “Isla De Cantaloupo,” George Cables’ “I Told You So,” and Arturo Sandoval’s “Conjunto.”

Each of the participants are veterans of their respective instruments. This is happy and exciting music, the kind that seems to emanate primarily from Austin or New Orleans.

Margaritas anyone?

Richard Ludmerer, Making A Scene, March 24, 2016



A gift from his Texas days, U Indy’s Freddie Mendoza issues Los Jazz Vatos CD

When he taught in Texas before coming to the University of Indianapolis last year, Freddie Mendoza was a major composing/performing/arranging force in the band Los Jazz Vatos. The release “El Jefe” (Lounge Side Records) is a great exhibition of this sextet, with a few other musicians making cameo appearances.

The arrangements are meaty, and everyone crafts solos that get right to the point. The title tune, one of Mendoza’s, yields to a Jimmy Shortell trumpet solo that is fully in the spirit of the tune. The ensemble works together cohesively, and the conciseness of the soloing never sounds offhand or short on ideas. It’s the essence of what’s meant by the kudos “taking care of business.”

The label’s name seems to be addressed in “Ted’s Groove,” in which the hot temperature of “El Jefe” is lowered to a cool lounge atmosphere. Its four-to-the-bar swing indicates immediately that the band enjoys a North American groove just as much as it feels comfortable in a Latin-jazz idiom.

Mendoza’s trombone soloing particularly caught my interest. A Latinization of “Cantaloupe Island,” the Herbie Hancock classic, features one of his fiery solos. “Lindo San Anto” offers a particularly catchy display opportunity for guest performer Mark Rubenstein on piano. Keyboardist Terry Bowness seems much at home on organ: His wailing phrases punctuate the blasting band assault in “6th Street Messin’ Round” over drummer Ernie Durawa’s New Orlean-style shuffle pulse.

Mendoza leads the charge in Arturo Sandoval’s “Conjunto,” with added percussion from Jose Galeano and a particularly captivating tenor saxophone solo by Steven Vague.

Mendoza’s “Jay Jay’s Blues” (which has got to be a tribute to Indianapolis’ J.J. Johnson) closes out the disc, featuring particularly burning work from Mendoza and trumpeter Shortell. For sheer cheesy fun, Shortell picks up the accordion on “Laredo Rose” as Bowness pours on the organ sentimentality.

Jay Harvey, Jay Harvey Upstage, March 28, 2016


Long-awaited hardly covers the 13 years between El Jefe and its sole predecessor. Remarkably, the personnel of Texas Tornados drummer Ernie Durawa's formidable sextet has stayed intact. Bassist Brad Taylor and keyboardist Terry Bowness round out the rhythm section, laying the foundation for a strutting, three-horn front line in Jimmy Shortell on trumpet, Freddie Mendoza on trombone, and Steve Vague manning sax. The band remains tight, fluid, daunting, slashing its way with precision through Mendoza originals "6th Street Messin Round," "Melissa," the title track, and closer "Jay Jay's Blues." Mendoza also arranged most of the disc, including a hip reading of Herbie Hancock's "Isla de Cantaloupo." A refreshing outlier is Los Vatos' rootsy take on singer-songwriter Rich Minus' dreamy border ballad, "Laredo Rose," with Shortell on accordion. The wait was worth it.

Jay Trachtenberg, the Austin Chronicle ****


Down in central Texas San Antonio/Austin way, drummer Ernie Durawa is most definitely El Jefe. He's been playing since grade school in the '50s, and was for many years seen as Doug Sahm's drummer du jour. Of course, there have been countless jazz gigs, a run as Delbert McClinton's preferred sticks man, and even a time on the throne with Joe "King" Carrasco's legendary outfit El Molino. Now Durawa runs one of the best jazz groups in the state, and makes albums that can hold their head high wherever they're played. His latest affair somehow tops them all, with sax and trumpet soloists who could walk onto any bandstand in the country and make a superb showing. Los Jazz Vatos are just bad-ass; that's all there is to it. There is plenty of Latin flair, but there's also bebop, straight ahead, and even a touch of fusion. In the end, it's how it's played and not what style it is that counts the most, and know that when Ernie Durawa steps behind his drum kit and calls a tune, things are going to happen. El Jefe is in the house.

Bill Bentley, The Morton Report


Ernie Durawa – Executive Producer Freddie Mendoza – Producer

Jimmy Shortell – Co-Producer Steven Vague – Associate Producer

Mixed by Freddie Mendoza, Jimmy Shortell, and Rob Hinton Recorded by Rob Hinton at Mesa Recording Studios in Del Valle, Texas Mastered by Jerry Tubb at Terra Nova Digital Audio, Inc.

Jimmy Shortell – trumpet, flugelhorn, and accordion Freddie Mendoza – trombone Steven Vague – tenor saxophone Terry Bowness – keyboards Brad Taylor – bass Ernie Durawa – drums Mark Rubenstein – piano on Lindo San Anto Jose Galeano – percussion Rick McRae – guitar on Laredo Rose and 100 Ways

Jimmy Shortell endorses S. E. Shires Custom Brass Freddie Mendoza endorses Getzen Custom Series Trombones

Ernie Durawa endorses Innovative Percussion Drum Sticks, Evans Drum Heads, Paiste Cymbals, and Yamaha Drums


Tracks 1, 5, 6, and 11 – composed and arranged by Freddie Mendoza Tracks 3, 7, and 9 – arranged by Freddie Mendoza Tracks 2, 4, 8, and 10 – arranged by Pat Murray

Special thanks to Annie Steele for the rehearsal space in her home, to the boys in the band for their great contributions, Rob Hinton for his studio expertise, and Scott Ward and Loungeside Records


Cover art by Kerry Awn

1 – El Jefe (Freddie Mendoza)

2 – Ted’s Groove (Tom Dempsey Music BMI)

3 – Isla de Cantaloupo (Hancock Music Company HFA)

4 – Lindo San Anto (Randy Garibay BMI)

5 – 6th Street Messin’ ‘Round (Freddie Mendoza)

6 – Melissa (Freddie Mendoza)

7 – I Told You So (George Cables HFA)

8 – Laredo Rose (Rich Minus Music BMI)

9 – Conjunto (Arturo Sandoval HFA)

10 – 100 Ways (Benjamin Wright HFA)

11 – Jay Jay’s Blues (Freddie Mendoza)




















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Cover image is copyrighted by the National Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm, Sweden