How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Like most of us, Poncho Sanchez appreciates all kinds of music. Passionate Latin dance mixes with crisp, modern mainstream jazz and earthy New Orleans blues on his latest album. Guests Chick Corea and Dale Spalding make a big impression. At opposite ends of the jazz spectrum, the two leaders express differently. While Corea charges straight ahead crisply and percussively, Spalding settles back with a loose southern hospitality. Both are quite effective at characterizing their own genres readily. One speaks the clearly-defined language of modern jazz, while the other comes from a laid back New Orleans arrangement. All the while, they're accompanied gently with Latin jazz support by the Sanchez band. This band has been together long enough that their sound gels with easy cohesion. Each band member knows what the others are up to. Their sound has become deeper and more interesting. Scott Martin is using the baritone sax more these days, with a firm grasp of the instrument's power. It colors dance and party music with a liberal paintbrush, while providing a familiar mainstream jazz palette. Sanchez's themed album combines Latin spirits with jazz roots, and he's always done that better than just about anyone else. He's carrying on the tradition, while helping to bring unity to Latin jazz. Place this latest Sanchez gem at the top of this year's "ten best" list.
Track Listing: Sambia; Next Exit; Latin Spirits; Quieres Volver; Going Back to New Orleans; On Time; Ju Ju; Batiri Cha Cha; The Things We Did Last Summer; Tito in the City; Early in the Mornin'.
Personnel: Poncho Sanchez- congas, percussion, lead vocals on "Sambia," "Quieres Volver" and "Batiri Cha Cha;" David Torres- piano, Hammond B3 organ; Tony Banda- bass, background vocals; Ramon Banda- timbales; Jose "Papo" Rodriguez- bongos, percussion, background vocals; Sal Cracchiolo- trumpet, flugelhorn; Scott Martin- alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Francisco Torres- trombone, background vocals; Randy Waldman- strings on "Quieres Volver;" Chick Corea- piano on "Latin Spirits" and "Ju Ju;" Guests for "Going Back to New Orleans" and "Early in the Mornin':" Dale Spalding- lead vocals, harmonica; Ledisi- additional vocals; Lon Price- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Bruce Malament- piano; Tom Gargano- bass; James Gadson- drums; Tiki Pasillas- timbales.