The one-night-only concert of Jaime Lozano & Mauricio Martínez: Hermanos y Familia reaffirmed Lin-Manuel Miranda’s timely sentiment in Hamilton, “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done).” ¡Ay, Dios mío, did they ever! In an evening brimming with outstanding talent, brotherly love, and affecting truth, the two past headliners and NYC-based artists from Monterrey, Mexico, returned to 54 Below together, sharing the spotlight, discussing their backstories and experiences, and bringing to life a set list of eleven expressive songs composed and arranged by Lozano, who served as music director and pianist, with vocals by Martínez, including a pair of romantic duets with guest singer Shereen Pimentel.
Backed by top-notch Latino musicians Agustín Uriburu on guitar, Joel Mateo on drums and percussion, and Ruben Rodriguez on bass, the show featured selections from musicals for which Lozano wrote the score and in which Martínez performed, in addition to meaningful numbers from the album Songs by an Immigrant, on which they collaborated (and are performing together again on the upcoming volume 2). The musical stylings represented Lozano’s signature mix of rich ballads, up-tempo pop, and contemporary jazz, all set to a Latin beat, with lyrics by a group of simpatico associates that reflect the dreams of immigrants in America, the issues and struggles they face, and their feelings of love, insecurity, frustration, and longing to belong, while deeply missing their homelands and those they left behind.
Each song was introduced with engaging direct-address commentary about what inspired it, where the artists were in their lives when it was written, and how they hoped to touch the audience. As always, the stories of their own personal journeys from Mexico to the US were filled with humor and heart, and with their overriding principle of “just to be honest” and “to be ourselves,” as clearly felt in the empathy they have for the characters they captured in their narrative music and riveting performances.
Among the funny memories they shared were Mau’s Americanized pronunciation of his own last name while doing self-taped auditions during the pandemic, for which he was told by his mother, when she heard it, “You’re pronouncing your name wrong” (after which he led the audience in a practice session of rolling the rrrrr in Martínez); and Jaime, who never fails to make me laugh, being defrauded by a “fucking lawyer” while trying to get his US documentation (after which he apologized to us for using the word “lawyer”).
There were also such heartfelt moments as Mau recalling his four-time battle with bladder cancer while starring as Emilio Estefan in the Broadway and touring productions of On Your Feet! (an intro to “Nothing is Broken” – a song Jaime and Marina Pires wrote for him, which Mau had never sung before, with the reminder to “live your life like its golden”) and both questioning the reprehensible attitude of those wanting to build a wall to keep people out of our country (“The Other Side,” with lyrics by Neena Beber, written for Jaime’s wife Florencia Cuenca, which Mau also sang for the first time in the 54 Below concert).
Throughout all the musical numbers, Jaime brought his mastery and passion to the piano, and Mau his resonant voice and amazing breath control to the songs. They opened the show with the defiant blockbuster “You Gotta Change Your Name,” with lyrics by Noemi de la Puente that fight against bigotry in show biz, and closed with “Dreamer,” in which lyricist Georgie Castilla sensitively traces the path of a wishful immigrant. As Jaime noted, it’s a song “to be listened to,” which they dedicated to all the dreamers in search of a better life in the US.
In between were three songs from Children of Salt by Lozano (music) and Lauren Epsenhart (book and lyrics) – a musical adaptation of the Mexican play by Hernán Galindo, inspired by the Biblical story of Lot’s wife looking back at Sodom – which won the Best of Fest Award in the 2016 New York Musical Festival, and on which Lozano and Martínez are currently working on the screenplay for an upcoming movie version. Martínez was convincingly haunted by ghosts from the past in “Dying in this Place,” amazed the house with his long notes on “Enough Is Enough,” and was joined in perfect harmony by the beautiful voice of Pimentel (Maria in the Broadway revival of West Side Story) on the love ballad “Morena, Cariño.”
Pimentel returned for another powerful duet on “DJ Can You Hear?” from Present Perfect, a musical in-development, with Martínez, by Lozano and Nancy Cheser (the lyricist and teacher of English as a second language, who flew in from Florida for the show). Also from the new work was “Mi Perú,” in which Mau eloquently conveyed his character’s bittersweet reminiscences. Rounding out the concert were “You Are the Reason” by Lozano (music and lyrics) and Michael Cooper (lyrics), which Jaime dedicated to his beloved young son Alonzo (who was also in attendance), and the sardonic “The Generic Immigrant Welcome Song,” with jazz riffs by the band and tongue-twister lyrics by Noemi de la Puente that impart the “you don’t belong here” stance that newcomers are too often made to feel.
If you missed last night’s terrific concert at 54 Below, be sure to catch these outstanding and moving artists, either in person or virtually, next time they perform.
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, without intermission,
Jaime Lozano & Mauricio Martínez: Hermanos y Familia played on Monday, July 18, 2022, at 54 Below, 54 West 54th Street, NYC. The concert was also livestreamed.