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Conguero Poncho Sanchez (born in Laredo, TX, and raised in Norwalk, CA) is today the king of Latin jazz. Since forming his own band in the late ‘70s, Sanchez has put out more than two dozen albums. Undoubtedly, one of the challenges he faces is trying to keep the music sounding fresh. With each of his albums, the leader places something on top of the music's Afro-Cuban rhythmic foundation. On his latest release that something is a heavy dose of ‘60s R&B.
The first two tracks, "One Mint Julep" and "Shing-A-Ling," resemble typical songs from previous Sanchez albums, featuring tight arrangements, good saxophone solos and group vocals. However, by the time "Hitch It to the Horse" hits, the funk begins to kick in. Sanchez duets with Sam Moore of Sam & Dave fame and proves himself to be quite a good singer, holding his own with the classic soul man. With their excellent blending of vocals with the punchy saxophones and trumpet, the Tower of Power comes to mind.
The highlight of the album is a blues, "Mary Ann," featuring the often-imitated but never-equaled Ray Charles. Brother Ray's voice is still in fine form. And his classic soul singing is a perfect fit in this Latin jazz setting.
When listening to Out of Sight!, you can't help but be impressed with how Sanchez manages to seamlessly mesh R&B and Latin jazz. With this release the conguero can add another to his list of fine albums. But then again, Sanchez doesn't put out bad records. Some are just better than others.