The making of Zabala: Episode 2 - Joel Guzman

The making of Zabala: Episode 2 - Joel Guzman

Let’s continue this journey to discover another musician who played on this record: the legendary Joel Guzman. It takes two notes of his accordion, or squeezebox as they call it over there, to be instantly enraptured towards Mexico.  Joel Guzman and Flaco Jimenez marked masterpiece albums with their instruments.

Most of my life, I had dreamed to visit Austin and after recording the guitar and vocal backing track of a dozen songs in Genzano, I finally flew there to record them with Joel, who at the time was playing with Paul Simon, Buddy Miller and Ricky Lee Jones.

Joel began playing as a child, touring America with his father's band and playing piano for Chuck Berry at a very young age. He’s probably the best accordionist in the world of his genre, right now. He got several Grammys for the albums Los Super Seven from 1998, and Polkas, Gritos y Acordeones from 2004, plus another for the 2010’s Crazy Heart soundtrack, a movie in which he also starred.

The first time I saw Joel, he was playing with Joe Ely. Their duo concerts had an incredible power. I got Joe and Joel to tour in Italy several times, through which we cemented our friendship. I have a beautiful memory of when we went together to Castelfidardo, the Italian town of accordions. Back then, Joel used to play a wonderful Baffetti accordion and so we went to visit the family factory were those were made. They welcomed him as if I had brought them Bruce Springsteen and there was mutual admiration. An unforgettable moment which the beauty of the Marche hills around us, covered with blooming sunflowers, vines, olive trees under a bright blue sky, made even more special.

Every time I went to Austin, I would host a dinner at the Guzman’s. Finding for the right ingredients was quite a challenge, but then somehow I would always make it, by enhancing the sauce with capers, anchovies and chili. I remember that time with the Parilla pasta all'arrabbiata and a Tuscan (?) wine called Bastardo which unleashed the best gritos ever!

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