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A Fireside Chat With Poncho Sanchez

AAJ Staff By

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PS: Once again, we are talking about a living legend here. Brother Ray Charles, as a little kid growing up in Los Angeles, I was exposed to all this different kind of music, gospel music, which I love very much and will touch upon on the next record, and all the great Ray Charles hits on the radio at that time. I remember listening to the tune “Mary Ann” on the radio as a little boy. I always felt it in a cha-cha groove. Dale Spalding does a version of “Mary Ann” and we started doing that as a funky cha-cha. As a matter of fact, Dale plays harmonica on that track. I asked Dale if it would be OK to have Ray Charles come in and do the vocals. Ray agreed to do it. At the time, Billy Preston was at Ray’s office. Billy asked me, “If there is anything I can do for you on the record, let me know.” I asked him if he knew “One Mint Julep” and Billy came in and he knew that tune inside out.

FJ: Start making room on the mantel for a few more awards.

PS: (Laughing) I think if they ignore this one, I wouldn’t understand that. I really feel very, very strongly about this record. I have a really good feeling about it. It is a throwback to when I used to be the frontman for a rhythm and blues/soul band. Francisco Aguabella plays batas on the last track as a tribute to the late, great Mongo Santamaria. I think this one is the best one that I have ever made and I’ve made some pretty good records.

FJ: I do have one bone to pick, however. For anyone jumping on the Poncho bandwagon, it will cost a small fortune to obtain your now, sizeable discography.

PS: (Laughing) Oh, yeah.

FJ: The people need a Poncho box set.

PS: That is what a lot of people have been telling me.

FJ: The neighborhood kid has grown up to become the worldwide ambassador of Latin jazz.

PS: Everything is finally coming together, Fred. What is happening to the music now, I just want it to continue growing and getting the recognition that it deserves. To me, Latin jazz is our music. It is American music. It was born right here when the great Chano Pozo met the great Dizzy Gillespie. This is ours. This is a piece of America and I am proud of that. For me, I am slowing down a little bit so I can enjoy my home and my family more. I used to be on the road all the time and playing all the time and I think it is time to start enjoying family life. But I don’t think I will ever stop performing and playing. I am trying to pay back where I came from. I did a master class at a little middle school in Norwalk. We played for the kids. The music is spreading and I am very proud of that.

Visit Poncho Sanchez on the web at www.ponchosanchez.com .

Photo Credit
Mark Sheldon


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