Not for nothing is 85-year old Juan Reynoso called "the Paganini of the Mexican Hot Lands." Considered Mexico's greatest living violinist, he's a veritable repository of the history of mariachi music, and he still plays with stunning vitality. The mariachi tradition varies greatly by region, and Reynoso is from Guerrero, on the southern Pacific side of Mexico, where string bands once ruled the day. As heard on a terrific recent collection of recordings he made between 1972 and 1993 (on the Rounder-distributed Corason label), Reynoso is typically backed by a pair of guitarists and a tamborita (hand drum) player. While they thrum fiery support Reynoso delivers an astonishing display of virtuosity, combining a remarkably nuanced and fluid lyricism with brash energy and zesty phrasing. Occasionally one of his guitarists will contribute spirited vocals, but for the most part the music is instrumental. It doesn't take more than a few minutes of Reynoso's work to replace the quaint Disneyland vision of the mariachi band with something altogether more urgent and exciting. Saturday, 6:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 773-525-7793. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): phto by Mary Farquharson.