Poncho Sanchez spices up Latin jazz

Grammy winner to sprinkle in funk and salsa for Capitol Theatre concert

Grammy winner to sprinkle in funk and salsa for Capitol Theatre concert

March 01, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Poncho Sanchez's sound has veered from straight Latin jazz to more of a potluck of styles - funk, Latin jazz and salsa.

"I do take a little bit from things I love," said Sanchez, who listens to a little bit of everything. "I do take a bit of all of that, and I create my own version."

The Grammy-winning Latin jazz artist, who sings and plays bongos, will perform with his band, the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Ensemble on Saturday night at The Capitol Theatre.

The performance precedes the release of his 23rd album, "Raise Your Hand," a product of his lifelong diet of various musical genres.


Sanchez, 55, said he finds inspiration from his collection of roughly 4,500 CDs, 2,600 LPs and 1,000 DVDs of live shows from the '50s and '60s.

"I'll travel all over the world, go to every mom-and-pop record store," Sanchez said. "I'll tell you what, I find some jewels."

His range is easily seen on his most recent album, "Do It!"

Both "Yo Quisiera" and a cover of a song from South African jazzman Hugh Masekela sound distinctly Latin - dance-worthy with an overall romantic feel. The songs are built around percussion. Horns harmonize and punctuate the rhythm, the keyboard lulls in the backdrop and carries the melody along, and on each, the vocalist evokes a sense of urgency and pathos.

But then on that same album, there's a cover of Tower of Power's "Squib Cakes." The instrumental opens with congas, then quickly dives into a melody more akin to '70s funk before easing in and out of a syncopated Latin rhythm.

Perhaps, it is for this reason a reviewer for All Music Guide, an online reference source, said Sanchez heads "one of the most popular and influential Latin Jazz bands around." And a Los Angeles Times reporter hailed Sanchez as "one of the most successful bandleaders in the U.S."

During his 27-year career, Sanchez has performed alongside artists such as Ray Charles.

He's landed within the top 25 in Billboard's Top Jazz Albums rankings 10 times since 1997, and his 1999 album "Latin Soul" received a Grammy for best latin jazz performance.

Despite his success, Sanchez doesn't rank himself among music's heavyweights.

"I don't really think of it that way. Those guys are my heroes," Sanchez said of musicians such as Charles and Latin percussionist Tito Puente. "They are the kings. I could never touch them."

Still, Sanchez is realizing the payoff for his accomplishments: The guys he grew up listening to as a teen in 1960s Los Angeles are now playing on his albums.

"You can think of a million people to be on your record, and, when you call them, they can say, 'Well, I'll think about it.'" Sanchez said. "So far, they've all said yes. They could have said no, you know?"

Guest artists on Sanchez's upcoming album - due in stores May 23 - include, among others, Booker T and the MGs of "Green Onions" fame, Maceo Parker (former saxophonist for James Brown) and soul singer-songwriter Eddie Floyd - all guys Sanchez listened to as a youngster.

Sanchez said the album's title track is a nod to Floyd, who wrote the song in the '60s. The album also will feature a cover of Floyd's popular "Knock on Wood," Sanchez said.

"Every band played 'Knock on Wood,'" he said. "But I was listening to 'Raise Your Hand,' and I liked that better. It was just really soulful, man. I liked how it felt."

Tickets to the show are $10 and $20. As of Wednesday, the 850-seat theater had sold 400 tickets, said theater manager Linda Boeckman.

If you go ...

WHAT: Latin jazz artist Poncho Sanchez, presented by Cumberland Valley School of Music

WHEN:8 p.m. Saturday, March 3

WHERE: The Capitol Theatre, 159 S. Main St., Chambersburg, Pa.

COST: $10, students; $20, adults

MORE: For more information, go to For tickets, call 717-263-0202.

Hear it for yourself

Check out Loop's podcast at to listen to a sample of Poncho Sanchez's "Yo Quisiera," off his most recent album, "Do It!" His next album, "Raise Your Hand," is set to be released in May.

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