July 22, 2012 9:44 pm  •  

Escaping the late afternoon sun, they sipped beers and nodded their heads to the exuberant rhythms and soulful vocal harmonies swelling from the neighboring room.

The Tejano Jam Session had started a few hours earlier with bar owner Mario Aranda and his fellow musicians warming up their instruments, fine-tuning their sound equipment and playing a few old favorites, but now the energy and chemistry was starting to build.

By 4:30 p.m., most patrons had started to filter from the bar to the dance area. They grabbed their tables and settled in.

Aranda, an anonymous drummer, and two members of local Tejano band, La Compania — John Hernandez and Al Martinez — joined keyboard player Xavier Gonzalez, of Harvard, Ill.

Aranda, 56, started hosting the Sunday afternoon Tejano Jam Session about six months ago as a sort of gift to musicians and fans of the genre. Sunday jam sessions are typical in most south Texas communities, including the town where Aranda spent his childhood: Weslaco.

“Let’s have some south Texas flavor in the house,” shouted Gonzalez, 48, with a smile.

Before joining the group, he took a few minutes to do the “San Antonio Stroll,” a Tejano-style foxtrot, with his fiance, Imelda Avila.

“It kind of takes me back home,” said Gonzalez, who has been playing Tejano music since he was 7 years old. “These happen every weekend in Texas. Everyone from 100 miles around comes to the specific towns where ever its happening.”

Tejano music has a lot of varieties but can be loosely described as a combination of polka, rock ‘n’ roll, country western and Latin American folk music. It can be traced back to Texas and Mexico and the influence of German and Polish immigrants.

While he can play the bass, Aranda is most skilled at accordion, and

a type of Tejano music that features the instrument heavily — Con-junto. Aranda said he started the jam sessions as a way to keep Conjunto, and other styles of Tejano, alive.

“It’s a tradition,” he said.

Racine resident and music fan Rubin Padilla appreciates Aranda’s efforts. He entered the bar just as the music was really starting to swing.

“This is my favorite kind of music, outside of country western,” Padilla, 62, said, leaning against the wooden rail, taking in the sound.

“This is about the best place where you come and listen to music,” he said. “I was going to go to San Antonio, but I figured it’s hot here, too. I might was well stay here.”