Brothers Eugenio, Enrique and Fernando Toussaint along with saxophonist Alejandro Campos formed the band Sacbé in October 1976.
The original idea was the creation of a musical project that could represent what was done at the time in jazz, with an original, Latin-American identity that could reflect an important and fresh Mexican musical movement.
The band started working at a local café south of Mexico City, which in a short time became a gathering place for young artists looking for new means of expression and creation. Possibly one of the major accomplishments of the band, was the creation of their own record label, which was unseen in Mexico at the time, with the exception of a couple of companies dedicated to folk Latin-American music.
In its 20 years of musical history, the band recorded six albums, with different formations, particularly on the melodic voice, which changed three times, through the years; another one was recorded on the XXX Anniversary of the band. The albums were: Sacbé (1977); Selva tucanera (1978); Street Corner (1982); Aztlán (1983); Dos mundos (1986); The Painters (1996); Todo Sacbé (2006).
The first album was recorded at LaGab studios in Mexico City (this was the first 24 track studio in Mexico). During the months of April, May and June 1976. At the time the band was formed by: Eugenio Toussaint: electric and acoustic piano (synthesizers were just starting to become major in the contemporary sound of jazz, and the loan of a small Arp synthesizer makes its appearance on this album); Enrique Toussaint: bass (a Hofner in this album); Fernando Toussaint: drums; Alejandro Campos: tenor, alto and soprano saxophones.
On this recording, there were several guest musicians including: Arturo Cipriano on flute and bass clarinet (he was responsible for the loan of the synthesizer); Adriana DeBall which voice is barely perceptible on Las Pulgas Freeway Humberto Flores and Roberto Casas on trumpets, Renato Menconi on saxophones and Manuel Garnica on trombones comprised the horn section. They can be heard on Introduccion and Andromeda; Gerardo Batiz on flute.
This recording initiates the beginning of the company Discos Arte thanks to the participation of Luis Gil (who would be the recording engineer of all Sacbé projects with the exception of Aztlán) and Rafael Lugo who at the time was owner of one of the most important record stores in Mexico City (discos Yoko). The recording was completed in a completely independent way and CBS special products did the manufacturing. Eugenio and Enrique Toussaint who made the painting of the toucan and jungle, which constituted the trademark for Sacbés music, designed the cover.
Even with all the limitations of an independent production, Sacbé was able to go beyond Mexico's boundaries and thanks to a distributor in San Francisco; the records got distribution through Tower Records chain, which did not have stores in Mexico. The attention paid by the general public and the media, motivated the band for the recording of a second album.
The recording of Selva Tucanera took place at Lagab recording studios again. On this second project percussionist Daniel Benitez had augmented the band. Also a horn section comprised of Humberto Flores and Angel Espinoza on trumpets, Renato Menconi and Marco Espinoza, along with Alejandro Campos on saxophones and Yuri Chargoy and Manuel Garnica on trombones, this section contributed the big band sound of Eugenio Toussaint composition Haiti.
This recording incorporates the sound of an Arp 2600 synthesizer, which became an integral part of Sacbé sound. The influence of the American band Weather Report is evident in this recording.
1979 is a year of many changes for Sacbé. The marriage of Enrique Toussaint generates the migration of Eugenio and Fernando Toussaint to the city of Minneapolis. This trip sets the rupture of Alejandro Campos with the band, and the need for a new melodic voice. Local guitarist Will Sumner joins the band, and work in the United States begins. From July 1979 to March 1980, Sumner will participate with the band, and a recording of a demo with him takes place and gets the possibility of a performance as an opening band for Ronnie Laws at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis for an audience of more than 5000 people.
A third record had been partially recorded in Mexico with Alejandro Campos but it was never completed, so Will Sumner went down to Mexico City and finished the recording with this new format.
Sacbé's sound was too much identified with the color of saxophone on the melody, so the recording was not released.
As a result of a scholarship, from the Mexican government, Eugenio Toussaint, moves to Los Angeles in California, to study at the Dick Grove Music Workshops, where he meets saxophonist Jon Crosse who is invited to be a part of the band. Once again, the recording of new saxophone lines takes place at LaGab studios in Mexico City and the album Street Corner is finished.
In 1982 the rest of the Toussaint brothers move over to Los Angeles starting a new phase of the bands history. Jon Crosse becomes an integral part of the band, not only as saxophonist but also as a composer, and contributes several compositions to the new Sacbé. The label Inner City became interested in the recording, but contractual matters will not permit the project to solidify. Thanks to the friendship of Eugenio with pianist composer Clare Fischer, Discovery Trend Records, owned by jazz enthusiast Albert Marx decides to release the record. This recording is the first Sacbé recording to be distributed all over the United States and the response is quite good, particuarly in San Francisco.
Due to the good response of audiences in the United States, Albert Marx decides to produce a new recording done completely in Los Angeles, at Excalibur Studios, engineered by Hayward Collins. Many new friendships with important local musicians, permit the inclusion of these in the recording and Clare Fischer, Milcho Leviev and Luis Conte participate with Sacbé as guest musicians. Clare plays electric piano on Enrique Toussaint piece Mijo. Milcho on Fernando Toussaint Si perdiera la vida plays melodica and Luis will provide percussion tracks to the entire project.
By this time, the economical situation of the band was precarious and an invitation to be a part of Herb Alpert's touring band is accepted. With the cancellation of part of this tour, Enrique and Fernando Toussaint, decide to return to their respective homes. Eugenio remains in Los Angeles and due to a conversation with composer arranger Michel Colombier, the possibility of becoming Paul Anka's touring band takes place. This will originate a cease of activity by the band until 1986.
In 1986 Eugenio Toussaint leaves the Paul Anka orchestra and returns to Mexico City. Along with Luis Gil (who had been the recording engineer of all the previous albums) starts a recording studio, which opens the possibility for a new Sacbé recording. Taking advantage of all the new technical resources such as MIDI, sequencers, and new technology synthesizers, Eugenio Toussaint starts recording a series of tracks to conform the new album, including compositions by all the members of the band.
This will be the first time that a major record label (Ariola-RCA) will pay attention to a Sacbé project. Through Herbe Pompeyo (A & R for RCA) the album Dos Mundos is released in Mexico, since the contract for distribution for Ariola only included Mexico, the record will be licensed to Albert Marx of Discovery Trend, for its distribution in the United States. This will be the first Sacbé recording to be released on compact disc. As usual, the distribution in Mexico was extremely poor and the record will be discontinued being considered a commercial failure. This recording will be the last one of the second stage of Sacbé with Jon Crosse on reeds, and no other project will take place for ten years.
Since his return to Mexico in 1986, Eugenio Toussaint begins working more as a composer for films, advertising and classical music, along with arrangements for various popular artists.
The idea of making a recording as a soloist, leads to the composition of Liechtenstein, dedicated to the American iconoclast. The composition is so close to the original sound of Sacbé that Eugenio Toussaint decides to compose a series of new pieces, dedicated to his favorite painters. At this time all members of Sacbé were living in different parts of the worlds, so the possibility of a reunion appeared to be extremely difficult. As a result of this, a band comprising Eugenio and Fernando Toussaint, along with Mexican bass player Roberto Aymes starts working and playing various concerts. One of these concerts will be as opening band for a concert by Oregon, which starts a friendship with reedman Paul McCandless.
On a second concert by Oregon in Mexico, the original formation of Sacbé (Toussaint brothers and Alejandro Campos), along with Mexican percussionist Armando Montiel, will also act as opening band. Through conversations with Paul McCandless, the possibility of a new recoding by Sacbé including him is opened.
The new album The Painters is recorded on the band's twentieth anniversary and will be released by Universal-Mercury in Mexico. Supposedly, the possibility of being distributed in the United States by the great jazz label Verve was offered by Universal, but none of this happened.
Sacbé had a big anniversary concert at Sala Nezahualcóyotl in Mexico City, for a packed house, plus appearances at the Cancun and Houston International Jazz Festivals. No solid working possibilities arose, so 1997 marked the definite dissolution of the band.
In 2006 the original Sacbé band celebrated its XXXth Anniversary at Sala Nezahualcóyotl with Ivan Lins, as special guest. The CD volume Todo Sacbé was reedited for the occasion.