If music were about pictures, percussionist Poncho Sanchez's music would be best described as a kaleidoscopic swirl of some of the hottest colors and brightest lights to emerge from either side of the border. At any given show, on any given record, fragments of Latin jazz, swing, bebop, salsa, soul, funk, and other infectious grooves collie and churn in a fiery swirl, with results that are no less than dazzling.
Although born in Laredo, Texas in 1951 to a large Mexican-American family, Poncho Sanchez grew up in a suburb of LA where he was raised on an unusual cross section of sounds that included straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz, and American soul. By his teen years, his musical consciousness had been solidified by the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. Along the way, he taught himself to play guitar, flute, drums and timbales, but eventually settled on the congas.
At 24, after working his way around the local club scene for several years, he landed a permanent spot in Cal Tjader’s band in 1975. Sanchez remained with Tjader until the bandleader’s death in 1982. That same year he signed with Concord for the release of Sonando!, an album that marked the beginning of a prolific musical partnership that spans 30 years and 26 albums!
Whether it’s salsa, straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz, or even elements of soul and blues, the mesmerizing array of sounds and colors from Sanchez’s youth have telegraphed across the decades and continue to inform his creative sensibilities to this day. “There’s room for a lot of different sounds in our music,” he says. “I think people have come to know that is what Poncho Sanchez is all about. We put it all together in a pot, boil it together and come out with a big stew. This isn’t some marking strategy to sell records. These are the sounds I grew up with. So when I play this music, I’m not telling a lie. I’m telling my story. This is the real thing.”
Poncho Sanchez, Congas/Vocals
Francisco Torres, Trombone/Musical Director
Ron Blake, Trumpet/ Flugelhorn
Joey De Leon Jr, Timbales
Rob Hardt, Saxophones/Flute
Andy Langham, Piano
Rene Camacho, Bass
Angel Rodriguez, Bongos/Percussion
Larry Sanchez, Sound Engineer/Production