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Poncho Sánchez: 1951—: Jazz Percussionist, Vocalist

Still Jammin'

In 1998 Sánchez's eight-man ensemble recorded Latin Bit, which critics admired for its soulful melody, pulsing beat, and creative title song, written by jazz keyboard artist Joe Sample. Combining the talents of guest saxophonist Wilton Felder and trombonist Wayne Henderson, the collection kept up an appealing mix, from cha-cha, mambo, and rhumba to slower, bluer danceables. To Carla Hay of Billboard, Sánchez described the uniqueness of his south-of-the-border sound: In an era of hard rock, he used no synthesizers, no rock guitars, no drums. His music remains pure Latin.

In 2000, for his twentieth recording, Sánchez released a groundbreaking 14-track CD, Soul of the Conga, which earned a rave review from reviewer Michael Stone of Rhythm magazine. One explanation of the CD's popularity was Sánchez's collaboration with Joey DeFrancesco, master of the Hammond B-3 organ. The Sánchez-DeFrancesco merger warmed up during a three-week preliminary gig at Yoshi's, a jazz house and Japanese restaurant at Jack London Square in Oakland, California. To Jason Koransky, an interviewer for Down Beat, Sánchez remarked, "We just ran the tunes down two or three times and recorded. It was loose and fresh. We had a great time with Joey in the studio." Although Sánchez had never combined his sound with an organ before, the solid performance moved National Public Radio reviewer Alfredo Alvarado to applaud the results and comment that Sánchez "has not lost his touch for the music he loves."

In 2001, bolstered by his old friends the Five Ortiz Brothers (verify group with all music.com), Sánchez produced an eclectic recording which pulled together sounds both old and new. Latin Spirits paired "Sambia," a festive Machito piece from the early 1950s, with Chick Corea's latest Afro-Iberian keyboarding on the folkloric solo "Ju Ju." Backing up the core of salsa vocals Sánchez-style were pianist David Torres and trombonist Francisco Torres, with Sal Cracchiolo on trumpet, Ramon Banda on timbales, Scott Martin on sax, and Fernando Torres on trombone. The recording added Torres and Dale Spalding on vocals, with Jose "Papo" Rodriguez shadowing Sánchez's melody line and percussion. Sánchez revved up the suite with his rendition of "Quieres Volver" and segued into the romantic vocals of "Cosas Del Alma."

Additional topics

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'