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Poncho Sánchez: 1951—: Jazz Percussionist, Vocalist

Sánchez On His Own

Primed and ready, Sánchez was eager to slip into contention for the role of the music world's chief Latin jazz artist. Since 1980 he had been grooming his band, the Latin Octet, which was headquartered in Los Angeles and played supper clubs and public concerts. He recorded two discs on the Discovery label and aired his own sound when Tjader's group vacationed. Not long before Tjader died, he suggested to Carl Jefferson, founder of Concord Picante recordings, that he ink a contract with Sánchez. The resulting deal brought Sánchez an annual recording. In 1999 the album Latin Soul opened with "El Conguero," revisited bop with "Ican," and honored Mongo Santamaria with "Water-melon Man." Winning a Grammy nomination, the CD snagged the award for best Latin recording.

Sánchez's infectious good spirits and dedication to music have brought him additional opportunities and friendships. In 1989 Cinemax filmed his performance with Cuban drummer Armando Peraza and Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana at the Biltmore Bowl in Los Angeles. That same year, Sánchez employed athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to compose liner notes for his Chile Con Soul album. Three years later, Sánchez appeared with comedian Bill Cosby at the Playboy Jazz Festival. On February 15, 1994, the mayor of Laredo appointed Sánchez the honorary President of the Republic of the Rio Grande. In 1996 he and his wife, Stella, appeared alongside then-Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper at a reception honoring the first decade of the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz.

Throughout his rise to stardom, Sánchez never forgot the roots of his success, which Jesse "Chuy" Valera, a reviewer for JazzTimes, summarized in a cover headline, "All Hail the New King of Latin Jazz!" In 1995 Sánchez publicly saluted Tjader, his late friend, former employer, and guiding star. The tribute recording, Soul Sauce, was a well-crafted thank-you. It included reprises of Tjader favorites—"Poinciana Cha Cha," "I Showed Them," and the title song —blended with a Sánchez farewell to Tjader, "Song For Cal," with vibist Ruben Estrada subbing for the old master. The jazz world took note of Sánchez's humility and gratitude.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Nate Smith Biography - Fought His Way into the Union to Theodosius II BiographyPoncho Sánchez: 1951—: Jazz Percussionist, Vocalist Biography - A Home Filled With Music, Poncho And The Conga, Sánchez On His Own, Still Jammin'