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Poncho Sanchez: Latin Soul

Jim Santella By

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When my wife and I go out dancing, it’s usually to the beat of this different drummer. You get into a groove with his saucy rhythms and relax while moving your body to the beat; but each time a hot soloist steps forward, it’s time to put your feet on autopilot and turn your attention to the improvised thrills. Poncho Sanchez has always featured hot soloists of the highest caliber in his band. Tony and Ramon Banda have been with him from the beginning. Sanchez’ pianist and his bongocero are long-time band members. While the horns have changed faces over the past decades, this current trio has been with him for over a year and represents Sanchez’ best. Turning them and the rest of his band loose for improvised solo passages puts the jazz in this Latin dance music. That’s what it’s all about.

Keeping the tradition alive, Sanchez sings the lead vocal on half the session and has his band sing coro to back him up. "Ven Pa Baillar" and "El Conguero" represent particularly well-done vocal arrangements. Trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo’s high brassy interlude lights up the latter with impressive strength. "Ven Pa Baillar" and "Watermelon Man" feature exciting alto saxophone and trombone solos, however, Francisco Torres has his best opportunity on Willie Bobo’s "Lisa." The traditional "Guaripumpe" folds in a lively charanga-like flute solo way up in the piccolo range. The three horns light up simultaneously as they trade fours on Eddie Cano’s "Ican" and again on "Mama Guela" after Scott Martin switches from baritone sax to alto. Sanchez "speaks out" through his three congas effectively throughout the program, getting his strongest surge on "Lisa." Performed before live audiences in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, Latin Soul serves as an overview of this band’s 16 years with the Concord label, a reflection of earlier affiliations with Cal Tjader and Clare Fischer, and a crystal ball image of many more years to come.


Track Listing: El Conguero; Ven Pa Baillar; Ican; Watermelon Man; Conga Blue; Lisa; B

Personnel: Poncho Sanchez- congas, lead vocals, percussion, timbales on "Guaripumpe;" David Torres- piano; Ramon Banda- timbales, chekere; Tony Banda- bass, vocals, chekere; Jose "Papa" Rodriguez- bongos, chekere, congas; Sal Cracchiolo- trumpet, flugelhorn; Scott Martin- tenor sax, alto sax, baritone sax, flute; Francisco Torres- trombone; Mike Whitman- baritone saxophone on "Lisa" and "Guaripumpe."

Title: Latin Soul | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Concord Music Group


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