Saturday, July 2, 2011

Francisco Mondragon Rio

 Francisco Mondragon Rio was a Mexican jazz guitarist from Mexico City that released a string of albums in the 80s and 90s until his death in 2004. His first record, under the group name Semanforash, was released in 1980 on Orfeón. It is a trio recording of guitar, bass and drums. The minimalist sound and slightly sloppy playing of Lo Impredecible is one of its charms, giving it almost a punkish feel. This album is one of my favorite Mexican records, and has led me to try and find everything else recorded by Mondragon. Certainly not an easy feat. This Semanforash record is nearly impossible to find, but I did manage to snag a copy on ebay. There is a recent cd reissue that is much easier to find, and it comes with bonus tracks. You can find the cd version of the album at El Chopo or at ABC Discos.

Check out the tracks on youtube:

Semanforash - Lo Impredecible (1980)
1. Inocencia
2. El jinete
3. La danza del juego
4. El extranjero
5. El matador
6. La broma
7. La despedida
8. Correo negro
9. Katherine
10. Dedicación
 As part of my search for the other recordings made by Francisco Mondragon Rio, I was on a several year hunt for a record he made with Jaco Pastorius called "Natural" that came out in 1988 on Mondragon's own Pulque records. Several months back I finally found a copy at the Balderas Street Market. It was one of those rare situations when looking at records I started to freak out a little with some irrational fear that the seller is going to decide to not sell me the record. In this case, the album was only 100 pesos which really blew me away.

While I spent a long time looking for this record, it really was not worth it. It is basically a jam session with Mondragon, Pastorius and a few other musicians that was then edited down into 4 songs. Mondragon's playing is fairly horrendous, and the playing by all the other musicians is equally uninspiring. Nearly all the tracks fade in and out, giving it the feel that we are just hearing excerpts of a long and tortured jam session. As far as I know, this album is no longer available, although I think there is a Japanese reissue floating around somewhere. But honestly, unless you are a diehard Pastorius fan, this record is not worth the hassle of tracking down.

Check out the tracks on youtube:
Francisco Mondragon Rio featuring Jaco Pastorius - Natural  (1988)
1. Phlegeton
2. The Foreigner
3. Leap Frog
4. Give Me Some

Unfortunately, nearly all the other recordings by Mondragon are fairly unlistenable besides the Semanforash album. He did release an album in 1982 under his own name called Terapia that is fairly decent. There is supposedly a double album of live Semanforash recordings from 1979 that was released in the early 1990s, of which I have never seen a copy, pirated or otherwise. Mondragon released an album with Archie Shepp that came out in 1991 on Pulque Records that is really terrible. Occasionally you can find some of these other albums by Mondragon at El Chopo. You can check out a full biography and discography of Mondragon here (in Spanish, courtesy of La Jornada).

1 comment:

  1. The Sheep recording recording is not terrible, certainly non of the best neither Sheep's or Mondragon, but it has his moments, some tracks may sound "dislocated" but not terrible, try again.