The New Horizons: Music of Many Colors

2017 was a busy year for Jimmy Palafox. Not only did he graduate from high school; he launched two new bands: Santa Cruz Latin Collective and The New Horizons. “I had been writing original material,” he recalls, “and it was a kind of psychedelic rock. So I put a band together to perform all the songs I had written.”

Palafox grew up knowing Mexico City-born drummer Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra. A member of the classic lineup of blues rock legends Canned Heat, de la Parra was with that band when they played at Woodstock. An active musician since 1958, de la Parra remains active today, leading a current lineup of Canned Heat. And Palafox considers the drummer a friend and mentor. “He and I go back to when I was just 11 years old,” Palafox says. “Canned Heat had such an influence on me; their whole thing was to play the boogie and honor blues music. And that has had a lot to do with the development of The New Horizons.”

But while The New Horizons draw inspiration and influence from music of yesteryear, Palafox says that the group is very much focused on the here-and-now. “We didn’t want to be a cover band,” he explains. “We want to make original music that sounds like something from the past.”

The band’s music casts a wide stylistic net, and the fluid, ever-changing lineup of the group reflects that open-ended character. “We’ve always had people coming in and out of the band,” Palafox says. “When I started the project, my idea was to have music of many colors; that’s why our album is called Kaleidoscope.”

While The New Horizons concentrate on Palafox’s original compositions, the group’s choice of select covers – and the manner in which they treat those songs – provides clues as to its collective mindset. “One day we were performing at a gig in Santa Cruz, and we ran out of songs,” Palafox recalls. “Our bass player said, ‘Do you guys know Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train”?’”

The other band members replied with a shrug and collective “Yeah, sort of.” So they spontaneously launched into an off-the-cuff reading of the Christian-era Dylan tune from 1979. In the hands of The New Horizons, the song took on a reggae character. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Palafox laughs, “but I had a tape recorder running.” After the gig, Palafox played back that recording; he and his band mates found that they liked it. “We should add that to our album,” one of them said.

And so they did. But for the studio recording – made just three days after that gig and featured on Kaleidoscope – the band made a point of actually learning the song. “We were literally learning it in the car on the way to the studio,” Palafox admits.

The band’s debut album was released in January, and Palafox says that he and his band mates are pleased with the results of their recording sessions. “The music has a Fito style of drumming: very heavy, kind of jungle-sounding,” he says. “And then a little touch of psychedelia, like Canned Heat was doing back then.”