Azteca was a large Latin rock band founded by percussionist Coke Escovedo (April 30, 1941 - July 13, 1986), formerly of Santana, in San Francisco in early 1972. Escovedo brought in his brother, singer/percussionist Pete Escovedo, and another percussionist Victor Pantoja; singers Errol Knowles, Wendy Haas, and Rico Reyes; horn players Bob Ferreira (saxophone), Tom Harrell (trumpet, flugelhorn), Mel Martin (saxophone, flute), and Jules Rowell (trombone); keyboardists George DiQuatro, George Maribus, and Flip Nunez; guitarist Jim Vincent; bass player Paul Jackson; and drummer Lenny White. (Guitarist Neal Schon, another former member of Santana, sat in on guitar, bringing the total lineup to 17 musicians.) The band signed to Columbia Records and released its self-titled debut album in December 1972; it spent nine weeks in the lower reaches of the charts starting in January 1973.
Azteca recorded a second album, Pyramid of the Moon, for release in the fall of 1973. By the time it appeared, Bill Courtial had replaced Vincent on guitar; Pat O'Hara had replaced Rowell on trombone; and John Brinck had replaced White on drums. The album failed to reach the charts, and personnel changes continued, with Coke Escovedo leaving the group, after which Columbia canceled its recording contract. Azteca continued to perform around the San Francisco Bay Area until disbanding in 1976, with Pete Escovedo's teenage daughter Sheila Escovedo (later known as Sheila E.) replacing Pantoja toward the end.
Filmmaker Daniel E. Meza began trying to put Azteca back together in the mid-2000s, eventually succeeding in assembling a version of the band that included Pete Escovedo, Courtial, Haas, Jackson, Knowles, Pantoja, Rowell, and White, along with trumpeter Mario Gonzalez, keyboard player Murray Low, flute and saxophone player Melecio Magdaluyo, and piccolo and saxophone player Alex Murzyn. This 12-piece unit played a concert at the Key Club in Hollywood, CA, on September 15, 2007, that Meza filmed and recorded for the DVD documentary Azteca: La Piedra del Sol and the live album From the Ruins, both released by Inakustik on January 20, 2009. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi