Chano y Dizzy!
Chano was Chano Pozo, the Cuban-born conguero extraordinaire in Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestras until Pozo’s untimely death in 1948 at age 33. The first Latin percussionist in the Gillespie organization, he is generally credited with providing the influence—and the rhythms—that stimulated Gillespie to enthusiastically explore Afro-Cuban sounds. Poncho Sanchez, prolific Pozo disciple and master of the congas in his own right, chose the occasion of his 25th album for Concord to pay tribute to the pioneers. Trumpeter Terence Blanchard, a tremendous fan of Latin music, plays the role of Dizzy, so to speak, and it’s an inspired pairing.
Using standard Latin orchestra instrumentation—congas, bongos, timbales and drums; saxophones, trumpet and trombone; piano, bass and vocals—Sanchez and Blanchard raid the Gillespie/Pozo catalog, recycle a couple of Blanchard’s favorites and cherry-pick the rest, including three from trombonist Francisco Torres, who co-produced this session with Sanchez. Of the Gillespie tunes, the mambo-fied “Groovin’ High” captures especially well the spirit of the original: Blanchard, fired up and recorded brightly, easily rides into the groove laid down by the Sanchez crew, which barely deviates from its set rhythm while he blows. The following track, on the other hand, is a total rethink, a drastically slowed down “Nocturna,” the Ivan Lins ballad Blanchard visited previously on his Bounce album in a peppier Brazilian arrangement.
This being as much—or more—about Pozo as Gillespie, percussive sparks come frequently and feverishly, and the Pozo compositions that bookend the set are exceptional showcases for Sanchez’s mastery. The opening medley of “Tin Tin Deo”/“Manteca”/“Guachi Guaro” and the closing “Ariñañara,” some of the purest salsa on the tribute, nod to the durability of Chano y Dizzy while underscoring the current players’ next-level chops.