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Catching Up With

Poncho Sanchez: Mambo King

By Published: August 19, 2013
AAJ: You've turned out to be quite prolific. It seems that you put out about 35 records over the course of your time as a bandleader. Between your touring and performing, that's a lot of work. Do you have any favorites out of all your work?



strong> PS: That's a good question. I would have to say Sonando,, my first release on Concord/Picante. Then I would definitely say Latin Soul, which won a Latin Jazz Grammy in 2000. There is Do It, which featured Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela
b.1939
flugelhorn
, and Tower of Power
Tower of Power
Tower of Power
b.1968
band/orchestra
. Now if you ask about what I would consider memorable albums, those would be the ones where I got some big name guest stars. There is Out of Sight, where I featured none other than Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
1930 - 2004
piano
,Mongo Santamaria
Mongo Santamaria
Mongo Santamaria
1922 - 2003
percussion
, Pee Wee Ellis
Pee Wee Ellis
Pee Wee Ellis
b.1941
saxophone
,Fred Wesley
Fred Wesley
Fred Wesley
b.1943
trombone
, Billy Preston and Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco
b.1971
organ, Hammond B3
on "One Mint Julep." Freedom Sound, which featured Wilton Felder
Wilton Felder
Wilton Felder
b.1940
sax, tenor
and Wayne Henderson
Wayne Henderson
Wayne Henderson
1939 - 2014
trombone
from The Crusaders, and Chile Con Soul, with Tito Puente
Tito Puente
Tito Puente
1923 - 2000
band/orchestra
. I also had Eddie Harris
Eddie Harris
Eddie Harris
1934 - 1994
saxophone
on Para Todos.

AAJ: Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
1930 - 2004
piano
; now that had to be fun!

PS: It was definitely an honor having Ray on my date. I grew up listening to him and being in the studio with someone of his stature is something I will always remember.

AAJ: Since you paid homage to Dizzy Gillespie on Chano and Dizzy, it's safe to assume that you hold him in high regard?

PS: Without a doubt. If it weren't for Dizzy teaming up with Chano Pozo, there may not been Afro-Cuban jazz as we know it today. It is a credit to the musicianship and artistry of those two great players that they were able to develop an entirely brand new musical idiom. Another individual who also deserves recognition for developing the Afro-Cuban jazz idiom is Mario Bauza
Mario Bauza
Mario Bauza
1911 - 1993
trumpet
. It was Mario who brought Dizzy and Chano together and, because of him, they created this great musical idiom.

AAJ: What is it about Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
b.1962
trumpet
that induced you to ask him to collaborate on this project?

PS: I met Terence about 8-9 years ago, and we talked about doing something together. I always dug his style because he brings a certain fire to his playing which fits exactly the energy of Afro-Cuban jazz. Besides that Terence is a beautiful cat, and I wanted him to be the trumpeter to play to Dizzy's parts on this date.

AAJ: Maybe the fact that Blanchard is from New Orleans has something to do with that also. There was always an exchange of musical and cultural ideas between Cuba and New Orleans that dates back to Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
1890 - 1941
piano
, and I know that you have heard Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
's version of "El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor)."

PS: Yeah, I know about that connection, and I'm sure Terence took that into account.

AAJ: Your new release, Live In Hollywood, seems to be retrospective because you've played those tunes on other dates. There is one tune, "Son Son Charari," which is a tune by the Puerto Rican bandleader Bobby Valentin. Apparently you have an affinity for those groups down there on the island.

PS: I really dig those bands like Valentin's, Rafael Cortijo
Rafael Cortijo
Rafael Cortijo
1928 - 1982
composer/conductor
,El Gran Combo
El Gran Combo
El Gran Combo
b.1962
band/orchestra
and Roberta Roena and His Apollo Sound. They have a high level of musicianship and energy, plus they swing like hell. That's the type of energy I try to bring to my music.

AAJ: It seems you have done everything you wanted to do with your music. What's on your bucket list?

PS: I've always wanted to make a Latin jazz tribute to John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, and I've decided that is going to be my next studio project. I have already talked to a couple of the best contemporary tenor players in jazz, and whomever commits to the project, I will use on the date. Other than that, I plan to keep on performing touring, and spreading the Latin Jazz gospel.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Poncho Sanchez
Poncho Sanchez
Poncho Sanchez
b.1951
congas


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