Marcos E. Mora’s musical story lies in the multicultural notes he strums and plucks from his 1969 wood-tone Fender Stratocaster guitar.
As the bandleader of Marcos Y Sabor, he guides the way from Latin music through the many sounds of classic rock, oldies, blues and soul.
Mora is a third-generation Mexican-American and from the time that his grandfather first came to Omaha in the 1920s, his family has played music.
It was in that bicultural setting where he was exposed to oldies at the same time he was exposed to mariachi music.
His feet first danced to Latin rhythms, but after learning some trumpet, he was drawn towards the electric guitar by the time he was in high school.
“You’re exposed to different styles of music from both sides,” Mora says.
When Mora was in his 20s, he played blues and R&B with guys in their 50s. Mora says he just sought out opportunities to play and learn new styles. He then moved on to play with a bunch of guys playing a Tex-Mex style of music.
“The exposure was just a great experience for me,” he says. “I was just kind of exploring music.”
Once he absorbed those musical roots, he set off to start his own project.
Now Marcos Y Sabor combine those two worlds, drawing influence from the Latin-tinged rock of Santana, but adding a healthy dose of Mora’s own south Omaha background to the mix.
The band has just finished a new album, the eight-track Mi Amor. The album’s lead video is for a cover of “Black Magic Woman”, a song popularized by Santana in 1970.
“We kind of gave it a more modern, contemporary feel,” Mora says.
That includes giving it a reggaton-style beat and adding a rap verse by Rico.
The band also dips its toes into alternative rock by covering Jane’s Addiction’s track “Jane Says”. When the band does take on covers, Mora says they really work on putting their own spin into the track.
“We still make the songs our own though,” he says.
The band’s new CD is the first to feature the band’s new singer, Tori Huerta. Huerta’s addition also completes a familial circle for Mora and Huerta, who are cousins.
“Her grandfather had played with my grandfather in the 40s,” Mora says.
Mora says his family comprises one of Omaha’s largest Mexican-American families.
“We have a lot of cousins I don’t even know of,” he jokes.
So despite being related, Huerta still had to come in and audition for the band. But once she opened her mouth to sing, she had sealed the deal.
Mora says she had a raspy, raw Janis Joplin-style to her vocals.
“She had something different,” he sas. “She had a really cool sound.”
The band recorded at Mora’s own space, Lat Pro Studios and mixed the album with Johnny Ray Gomez at OnTrack Productions. The combination of American and
Latin influences draws across the whole disc, highlighted by Gomez’s own contributions of Hammond B3 organ.
The disc’s title track is a bilingual song in 3/8 time, taking Latin elements into a Santana-style songs.
“It leans more towards a rockish song,” Mora says.
Mora also unearths one of his old blues songs for inclusion on the disc as well. That track, “Good Lovin'”, is one of the tracks to feature the Hammond on it, giving it a rawer sound, Mora says.
Mora says he specifically sought out Gomez, as he’s one of the few people in town that can really get the sort of Hammond sound that Mora sought.
“Good Lovin'” made its way on to the record after becoming a fan favorite at Marcos Y Sabor’s energetically upbeat live shows.
“It became popular as we played it live,” Mora says.
It’s the band’s live show that has built the band up too. After the band’s 2009 Jazz on the Green performance, event organizers told the band that they had never seen so many people up and dancing at one of the shows. Marcos Y Sabor returned to play the event earlier this year.
“We like to keep it upbeat,” Mora says.
The energy also keeps people into it, whether the band is playing an Aerosmith cover or something with a Latin groove.
Mora says the band’s goal is to get theaudience to participate in the show by dancing and singing along.
Mora says he’ll tailor the sets depending on whether he’s in south Omaha or playing out west. However, he’ll get requests for Latin material at events like Jazz on the Green or rock material when they’re on stage at a south Omaha event.
“People just move to it no matter what,” he says.