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Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band: Toronto, Canada, March 9, 2013

Alain Londes By

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Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band
Koerner Hall
Toronto, Ontario
March 9, 2013

After not playing in Toronto for quiet a few years, fans were finally able to enjoy the wonderful talent of master conguero Poncho Sanchez, together with his Latin Jazz Band and featuring, on this particular occasion, young lion {m: Christian Scott = 15401}} on trumpet. For the 2012-2013 season, the Royal Conservatory has programmed a series of performances, Devoted to Dizzy. This particular night was billed as Cubano Be, Cubano Bop, after the famous 1947 collaboration between bebop jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and the great Cuban drummer Chano Pozo. Some of the selections were recently featured on Poncho Sanchez and trumpeter Terence Blanchard's Chano y Dizzy (Concord Picante, 2011)

The mood onstage was lighthearted, with the show right on the mark in terms of timing and musicality. As soon as the band members took their spots, the group went right into "Promenade," for a comfortable warmup. The band progressed into a medley of Willie & Lobo tunes including "Fried Neck Bones," and "Spanish Grease," with trumpeter Ron Blake making a statement with his clear crisp tone and sufficient volume to extend his average physical stature.

The heart of the first half brought the rich "Chano Pozo Medley: Tin Tin Deo/Manteca/Guachi Guaro." Arranged by trombonist Francisco Torres, what made this medley different to most others was that Sanchez started off with a simple solo, singing the lyrics to "Tin Tin Deo." The rest of the band joined in for the other two pieces that flowed one into the other rather than being played in sequence. Scott impressed the audience with his technical dexterity; his unique hybrid trumpet was somewhat redolent of Gillespie's curved horn, which was capable of sounding like. trumpet, cornet or flugelhorn. Another Gillespie classic, "Con Alma," followed, with punctuated rhythms spiced up by the chekeré and changing tempos. Scott emphasized each note in his solo by, at one point, almost slouching towards the floor to extract the full essence. The engaging Anglero brothers' salsa, "Son Son Charari," closed off the set.

At the end of the intermission, Sanchez talked in front of the audience about his origins as well as his work with Gillespie. Mario Bauza had introduced the great trumpet player to Chano Pozo when a percussionist was needed. Sadly, Pozo was assassinated at the young age of 33, rendering the question of how much music was lost due to such a shortened life. Sanchez even claimed to have encountered a suspicious individual who might very well have been Pozo's killer. At least Gillespie promoted the development of Afro-Cuban music, thanks to his deep knowledge and instinct for the music, allowing him to handpick his musicians.

Right before kicking off the second half, a fan yelled out "Watermelon Man!" Sanchez quipped in jocular fashion that that would be a $700 request......per person.

Following Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" and "Ven Pa Bailar," by Sanchez and Torres, Scott returned onstage for the ever-engaging "Groovin' High." The band calmed things down with a quiet and slowed down rendition of Ivan Lins' "Nocturna" featuring Scott. Despite very little room in the hall for a dance floor, with the encouragement of the band, a few couples gave it a shot, particularly accompanied by the forward energy of the salsa-infused "Prestame Tu Corazon."

After approximately two hours of music, the show came to an end but not before the necessary encore featuring the whole band playing a spirited arrangement of delayed melodic lines on pianist Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man."

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