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January/February 2010

Poncho Sanchez
Psychedelic Blues
Concord Picante

It’s curious that Poncho Sanchez chose to title his 24th album for Concord Picante Psychedelic Blues: The name, borrowed from the third track on the album, conjures up images of ’60s rock acts like Cream and Hendrix jamming the night away at excruciatingly loud volumes while a light show pulsates behind them. But that’s not what you get on Sanchez’s version of the psychedelic blues—not at all. In fact, the conguero and bandleader has jettisoned the homages to classic Motown and Stax R&B that defined 2003’s Outa Sight and 2007’s Raise Your Hand in favor of the more purist and tightly arranged traditional Latin jazz he perfected long ago.

Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” sets the tone up front, anchored by Francisco Torres’ trombone and Ron Blake’s trumpet on one end and Andrew Synowiec’s guitar and David Torres’ organ on the other. Freddie Hubbard’s sizzling “Crisis” (with guest trumpeter Arturo Sandoval) and Horace Silver’s “Silver’s Serenade,” given a mambo treatment, reinforce the album’s jazz cred, but it’s the more mainstream Latin tracks that pack the harder punch. The “Willie Bobo Medley” (consisting of “I Don’t Know,” “Fried Neck Bones and Some Homefries” and “Spanish Grease”) pays tribute to the late percussionist while recalling early Santana. The final two entries, Sanchez and Francisco Torres’ “Delifonse” and Cuban bandleader Rene Touzet’s salsa “Con Sabor Latino,” showcase Sanchez’s percussion chops and the ensemble’s airtight cohesiveness.

Originally published in January/February 2010
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