“As Elvis is to rock and James Brown is to soul, Poncho Sanchez is to salsa.” -LA Times
If music were about pictures, percussionist Poncho Sanchez’s music would best be described as a kaleidoscopic swirl of some of the hottest colors and brightest lights to emerge from either side of the border. At any given show, on any given record, fragments of Latin jazz, swing, bebop, salsa and other infectious grooves collide and churn in a fiery swirl, with results that are no less than dazzling.
Sanchez grew up in a suburb of L.A., where he was raised on an unusual cross section of sounds that included straight ahead jazz, Latin jazz and American soul. By his teen years, his musical consciousness had been solidified by the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Wilson Pickett and James Brown.
Whatever the genre, the mesmerizing array of sounds and colors from Poncho Sanchez’s youth have telegraphed across the decades and continue to inform his creative sensibilities to this day. His over 20 year relationship with Concord Records has yielded two dozen recordings, a Grammy Award and several Grammy nominations.
For more than three decades as both a band leader and a sideman, Master Conguero Poncho Sanchez has stirred up a fiery stew of straight-ahead jazz, gritty soul music, and infectious melodies and rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American sources. His influences are numerous, but among the more prominent figures that inform his music are two of the primary architects of Latin jazz – conga drummer and composer Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
Sanchez’s close friend, multi-instrumentalist jazz icon Cal Tjader recommended he sign with Carl Jefferson’s Concord Records. Tjader told him Jefferson was looking for a new talent and he highly recommended Sanchez. Jefferson gave Poncho one record deal with his Concoerd Picante imprint, and the rest is Latin Jazz History. Thirty years later and 25 albums later, Sanchez is still with the label.
“I’ve been involved with this from the beginning but just as a listener when I was a young boy,” he says.
“I never dreamed it would happen that I would become a professional musician. You go with the flow and you go with your heart and what feels right, and now I know it feels right because this is how I made a living for my whole life. I’m not braggin’ but I did pretty well for a guy from the neighborhood.” – Poncho Sanchez
Given all the ups and downs the music industry has experienced, it’s remarkable to find anyone who still retains a sense of allegiance or loyalty. Sanchez turned 60 in 2013 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award for the Latin Recording Academy. The mesmerizing array of sounds and colors from Poncho Sanchez’s youth have telegraphed across the decades and continue to inform his creative sensibilities to this day.
“As Elvis is to rock and James Brown is to soul, Poncho Sanchez is to salsa…particularly the congas.” -LA Times
“Like Monk, he hasn’t stopped to listen to what his critics have had to say, and rightfully so. After all, even the Jazz and Latin music purists can’t argue that he’s enjoyed a good degree of success over the past twenty-plus years.” -Jazz Con Clave
“Call it Latin, jazz, buga-loo, jazz-funk or whatever, but master conguero Poncho Sanchez has perfected the unions of Afro-Cuban polyrhythms and jazz melodies.” -Jazz Series Review