Step Right Up!
Gary Mackender formed The Carnivaleros in 2001 after drumming with Tucson favorites the Mollys from 1993-2000. During his tenure with the group he dragged his accordion across the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia and learned how to play it, slipping away late at night after the gigs when everyone else fell asleep. This music project has enabled him to hear a full band play the music he's been writing off and on for several years. Step Right Up!, the group's first CD, is an all instrumental showcase featuring some of Southern Arizona's finest, soulful musicians and one killer pedal steel player from Lawrence, Kansas. Mackender, who wrote most of the material, is featured on accordion and evenplays drums on a couple of cuts. Teddy Morgan plays guitar and co-produced the CD. The line-up also includes Catherine Zavala (also formerly of the Mollys) on mandolin, Hurricane Carla Brownlee (Lisa Otey, Nappy Brown) on sax, Sid George (Dr. John) on sax, Steve Grams (Lisa Otey, Grams and Krieger) on bass, Chris Giambelluca (Nick Luca Trio) on bass, Richard Medek (Teddy Morgan, Troy Olsen) on drums and Lynn Piller on pedal steel. The November 6, 2003 issue of the Tucson Weekly says: ' The Carnivaleros sound like their name suggests - an amalgam of Tex-Mex, circus music, Zydeco, traditional Western, spy themes, Eastern European motifs, and everything else under the sun. The album is stellar, veering abruptly yet seamlessly from one style to another on a dime - a waltz here, a polka there, and you can dance to all of it.' A review from the Tucson Citizen on October 30, 2003 calls it '...a firecracker of extraordinary musicianship and genre-bending songs.' Another mention in the Citizen on November 6, 2003 said 'In terms of musicianship, this group and CD can stand with any we've heard this year (local or national).' Mackender is also a lifetime member of the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame and in 2003 won a TAMMIE (Tucson Area Music Award) for best accordionist.