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Poncho Sanchez: Raise Your Hand

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An album reflects an artistic personality; the creative mixture of past influences determines the current output. When Concord Records acquired the Rhythm 'n Blues label Stax, percussionist Poncho Sanchez gained access to musicians and repertoire that shaped his musical identity. This provided Sanchez the opportunity to paint a fuller picture of his artistic background. On Raise Your Hand, he brings his Latin jazz group together with several guest artists to mix Latin jazz, Salsa, and classic Rhythm 'n Blues tracks.

The Sanchez group performs most powerfully on the straight-ahead Latin jazz tracks. The band rides an up-tempo romp through blues changes on "Tropi Blue. Trombonist Francisco Torres' lengthy solo displays the Sanchez band's finest quality—a true connection with jazz history. Alto saxophonist Maceo Parker's biting tone, bluesy phrasing, and funky rhythmic ideas build into an exciting solo on the funky Cha Cha Cha "Maceo's House. The band creates a contemplative quality to the 6/8 feel on "Gestation. Saxophonist Javier Vergara improvises gracefully through syncopated rhythms and lush chord changes. These songs strongly uphold the high Latin jazz standard that Sanchez values.

The band stamps a distinctive mark on the Salsa tunes, balancing jazz aesthetics with a dance sensibility. "El Agua De Belen stands out as the album's hit dance tune. Vocalist Andy Montañez presents a confident and spontaneous vocal, while trumpet player Ron Blake's extended solo playfully works around the clave. "Amor Con Amor contains simplistic chord changes, but the band delivers the same drive and dedication. Sanchez provides a strong vocal and Torres plays an exciting solo. These songs create a balance to the Latin jazz, and the vocal emphasis diversifies the whole album.

The group plays solid R&B, but sacrifices its Latin jazz roots. Vocalist Eddie Floyd, organ player Booker T. Jones, and guitarist Steve Cropper help solidify a funky groove on "Raise Your Hand. The Motown classic "Shotgun contains vocals from Sanchez and Parker's bluesy sax licks. Floyd and Sanchez share vocals on "Knock on Wood, moving through a fairly stock arrangement. Despite solid performances, the band stagnantly reproduces old ideas on these songs and they seem strangely misplaced.

Sanchez deserves credit for exploring his musical heritage on Raise Your Hand. His band continues the Latin jazz tradition proudly; they balance equal doses of improvisation, tight arrangements, and solid Latin rhythm section work. The Salsa performances reflect a distinct decision about the mixture of jazz and dance music. The Rhythm 'n Blues tracks present a step back for Sanchez—a reproduction of an influence rather than an interpretation. This honest look into Sanchez's musical personality provides an interesting divide between past influence, current output, and creative application.


Track Listing: Raise Your Hand; Tropi Blue; Shotgun; El Agua De Belen; Rosarito; Maceo's House; D

Personnel: Poncho Sanchez: congas, bells, guiro, lead vocals (1, 3, 9, 10); David Torres: piano, Hammond B-3 Organ; Javier Vergara: tenor sax, alto sax, flute; Ron Blake: trumpet, flugelhorn; Francisco A. Torres: trombone, background vocals; George Ortiz: timbales; Joey De Le

Title: Raise Your Hand | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Concord Picante

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