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Poncho Sánchez: 1951—: Jazz Percussionist, Vocalist

Sánchez On The Road

Still playing with three original members of his band—Ramone and Tony Banda and Sal Cracchiolo—Sánchez has managed a busy career that has kept him on the road, from the Aladdin Resort in Las Vegas to the new Blue Note Club, from the Newport Jazz Festival and a musicians' clinic at the University of Tennessee to the Hollywood Bowl and the Detroit Opera House. In an essay posted on his website, which was mounted by his son, computer whiz Xavier Sánchez, Poncho remarked, "I'm proud to say that we have stuck to the basic fundamentals and the roots which are very important to us." To keep his act fresh and non-repetitive, he has maintained a 200-song travel book, inviting his players to choose each night's feature ballad and a crowd-pleasing mix of dance rhythms. He has maximized family time by scheduling long weekends of work, returning to Norwalk on Mondays to his wife.

Sánchez shows no signs of slowing down. When trombonist Francisco Torres decided he wanted to extend his three years with Sánchez to twenty, Sánchez jovially wondered out loud whether he would be able to thunder out his signature hand rhythms for another two decades. To questions about his trademark flat-top cap, he refuted suggestions that it covers a bald spot. For his personal appearances, the hat, beard, and burly torso are all parts of the conguero that fans expect to see.

Still in demand around the globe for jazz jams and student tutorials, Sánchez has continued to promote Latin jazz, and to advise young aspiring percussionists to stay focused on music and practice with electronic instructional aids. He added to their choices in March of 2002 with Poncho Sánchez's Conga Cookbook, a print guide to standard riffs and Afro-Cuban rhythms. He keeps a backlog of innovative ideas for developing American-style Latin jazz as an egalitarian music for everybody. The website "Salsa Creations" quoted his belief: "If you feel Latin jazz in your heart and love it as much as I do, it doesn't matter where you're from."

Selected discography

Sonando, 1982.

Bien Sabroso, 1983.

El Conquero, 1985.

Papa Gato, 1986.

Fuerte, 1988.

Chile con Soul, 1989.

Cambios, 1990.

Familia, 1990. A Night at Kimball's East,1991.

El Mejor, 1992.

A Night with Poncho Sánchez Live, 1993.

Para Todos, 1994.

Soul Sauce, 1995.

Baila Mi Gente: Salsa!, 1996.

Conga Blue, 1996.

Freedom Sound, 1997.

Afro-Cuban Fantasy, 1998.

Latin Bit, 1998.

Latin Soul, 1999.

Soul of the Conga, 2000.

Baila Baila, 2001.

Keeper of the Flame, 2001.

Latin Spirits, 2001.



Berendt, Joachim-Ernst, The Jazz Book: From Rag-time to Fusion and Beyond, 6th ed., Lawrence & Hill, 1992.


Billboard, October 28, 2000.

Culver City Life, June 1999.

Down Beat,, March 1996; March 1998; April 2001; April 2002.

Fortune, November 12, 2001.

Yale Bulletin and Calendar, July 27, 2001.


Additional information for this profile were obtained through the Berkeley Agency.

—Mary Ellen Snodgrass

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'