Poncho Sanchez

Conguero Poncho Sanchez, a conguero, has been a leader and sideman for more than 30 years. He is a fiery mix of straightahead jazz and gritty soul music as well as infectious melodies and rhythms derived from various Latin American and South American cultures. Although his influences are many, two of the most important figures in his music are Chano Pozo (conga drummer and composer) and Dizzy Gillespie (trumpeter). Sanchez pays tributes to these titans in his new album Chano y Dizzy! which is his 25th recording as a Concord Picante bandleader. It will be released September 27, 2011. Sanchez and Francisco Torres (long-time band members, trombone/vocals), collaborate for the first time to create the new album. Multi-GRAMMY-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard will join Sanchez for the 11-song set. Sanchez enlisted Blanchard, a fellow label mate and New Orleans native, to help him with this project. Blanchard grew up in the Cuban and Latin music scene and is a long-time fan of the music’s multicultural underpinnings. Blanchard is a jazz musician and film score master who has been hailed as one of the most influential and innovative of his generation. Blanchard is a film composer with more than 50 credits. He is currently working on the score of George Lucas’s upcoming movie, Red Tails. The Golden Globe nominee and four time Grammy winner’s music was featured on Broadway recently in Chris Rock’s Tony-nominated play “The Mother ****** with Hat.” Blanchard is currently working on the music for A Streetcar Named Desire’s Broadway remake. He has also been commissioned to write the Opera St. Louis’s music for a project which will debut in 2012. Concord Jazz released his latest CD Choices in 2009 to wide critical acclaim. Sanchez says that Sanchez and Pozo were the pioneers in Latin jazz. “Chano Piozo was a genius. He is considered the father of conga drummers, and I admire him greatly. Dizzy Gillespie, of course was an icon in American jazz. On several occasions, I had the privilege of working alongside him. These men were the first to introduce Latin music to American Jazz – and it has led to some of the most memorable music in American jazz over the past 50 to 60 years. It was high time I paid tribute to their achievements. The album features songs written by and performed by these legends. However, there are also compositions by other writers that reflect the traditional Latin jazz flavor. Sanchez’s band tours with him, and assists with songwriting and arrangement. Blanchard says that the studio ranks consist of pianist David Torres and Rob Hardt as well as trumpeter Ron Blake, Ron Blake, Ron Blake, trombonist/vocalist Francisco Torres and Tony Banda. They also include George Ortiz, percussionist Joey De Leon Jr., and George Ortiz, timbalist George Ortiz. They pay great attention to the rhythms they play and understand the historical importance of keeping this heritage alive. Sanchez was born in Laredo Texas in 1951 to a large Mexican American family. He grew up in L.A. suburbs, listening to unusual sounds such as straightahead jazz, Latin Jazz, and American Soul. His musical awareness was solidified in his teens by Miles Davis and Cal Tjader, Mongo Sanmaria, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, and Wilson Pickett. He learned to play the guitar, flute, drums, and timbales along the way. But he eventually settled on the congas. After working his way through the local clubs for many years, he was offered a permanent position in Cal Tjader’s band at 24. Sanchez says that he learned a lot from Cal, but it wasn’t like he taught me lessons like an educator. It was mostly just being around such an amazing guy. It was his manner of conducting himself, how he spoke to people, and the way that he presented himself onstage. He was elegant and very professional, and when he performed, he played brilliantly. He had a touch on the vibes that was unlike any other. He was, and will always be, the greatest vibe player in the world, according to me. Sanchez remained with Tjader through the death of the bandleader in 1982. He signed with Concord in 1982 for Sonando. This album marked the beginning of an extended musical partnership that has seen more than twenty-five years of success and produced more than two dozen recordings. Chano y Dizzy! This is the latest installment of that ongoing partnership. Sanchez, Blanchard, and company started the evening with a lively medley from Pozo songs: “Tin Tin Deo,” Manteca” or “Guachi Guaro”. Blanchard’s trumpet playing is accompanied by Sanchez’s vocals and percussion, and the rest of the band provides a strong and vibrant rhythmic foundation. Blanchard can move in different rhythmic contexts within the song’s second track, which is a slow rendition of Dizzy’s “Con Alma.” Further on, Ernesto Lecuona’s Cuban song “Siboney” makes it to the final cut. Ron Bake called me and said that he liked the tune “Poncho”, but Chano and Dizzy didn’t actually write it. It’s okay. It works. It will be fine. It’ll be fine. I have always loved the song, so it was a joy to finally record it. It’s a fitting tribute to the artists and period it was written. Gillespie’s lighthearted “Groovin High” was originally intended to be a swing song, but Sanchez and his team rearranged it to suit a more mambo feel. Blake wrote the funky “Harris’s Walk”, another Blake song. “But I loved it so much at rehearsal that we gotta put this record on the record,” Sanchez says. Francisco Torres wrote “Jack’s Dilemma” and it was a spontaneously arranged rhythm section that consisted of Sanchez on conga, Joey De Leon on trapdrums, and Sanchez on guitar. Sanchez says that there are no bongos or timbales. “The engineers in studio kind of put together a drum set. Joey tuned them exactly the way he wanted and ten minutes later, we were recording. It sounded amazing in the end. The album closes with “Arinanara,” a highly rhythmic and staccato Pozo song. The song was recorded by many artists over the years and is “straight-up salsa music.” It is a close match for a recording that honors some of 20th-century’s most innovative music. from www.ponchosanchez.com

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