San Antonio’s Tejano Conjunto Festival began in 1982. That’s also the last time brothers Flaco Jimenez and Santiago Jimenez Jr. shared a stage together.
Flaco, 73, is conjunto’s crossover figure, the man who became known around the world for playing with the likes of Ry Cooder, the Rolling Stones and the Texas Tornadoes. Santiago Jr., 68, is the keeper of his elder’s more traditional conjunto style, right down to the two-button accordion. The two finally played together at this weekend’s Conjunto Festival, an eagerly anticipated performance that wasn’t a sure thing.
As Hector Saldana of the San Antonio Express-News wrote, “the brothers’ relationship is complicated and mysterious. They’ve never been particularly close.” They made one record together, in 1960, and are only “recently reconciled,” Saldana wrote last year. According to Saldana, Conjunto Festival director Juan Tejeda, “stage managed and nudged along,” the performance.
The first step was simply booking the two brothers to play the fesitval on the same day. Then Tejeda went to work. “I first spoke to Santiago Jr. about getting him and Flaco to play a couple of tunes together in tribute to their late, great father, Santiago Jimenez Sr. Santiago Jr. readily agreed but was a little skeptical about Flaco agreeing,” Tejeda told the TM Daily Post. Tejada then talked to Flaco’s son, Leonard, who is essentially his father’s manager and booking agent.
Nevertheless, even after doing a photo shoot with the Express-News for Saldana’s story, Flaco Jimenez remained opaque. In an interview with Enrique Lopetegui of the San Antonio Current, he claimed not to know if it was going to happen, implying that if his son had arranged it, it was news to him. He also pointed out their musical incompatibility.
“He has to bring his conjunto and I have to bring mine, because our material is different,” Flaco said.
“Naturally, if there were any disagreements between us, that’s a personal thing I don’t discuss with anybody,” he said in reply to another question.
On Sunday, Tejeda ended up bringing Santiago Jr. over to Flaco before Flaco’s set, at which point the two brothers hugged and talked about what songs they ought to play.
As the Current‘s Lopetegui recapped:
The long-awaited reunion took place midway through Flaco’s closing set at the festival. Backed by Max Baca on bajo sexto (in his third appearance of the night after his own set with Los Texmaniacs and another one backing Mingo Saldívar), David Jiménez (Flaco’s son) on drums, and Rudy Calderón on bass, Flaco called his brother onstage.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who can imitate our father better than Santiago,” said Flaco in Spanish (he meant it as a compliment, I hope). The pair embraced and were relaxed throughout their four-song set that included Santiago Jiménez Sr.’s classics “Cada vez que cae la tarde,” “Margarita,” “Viva Seguin,” and “Ay te dejo en San Antonio.”
“This is a song that my father recorded and then Flaco recorded it again and won a Grammy with it,” said Santiago Jr. in Spanish before “Ay the dejo en San Antonio.” “Then I recorded it too and… well, I just recorded it.”
“The reunion was obviously very emotional with both brothers tearing up on stage in remembrance of their father,” Tejeda said.
Below, the Current‘s video of “Cada vez que cae la tarde’: