Poncho Sanchez & his Latin Jazz Band

From cha-cha-cha to Coltrane - Saturday, October 26, 2013

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By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
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By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
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By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
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By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
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By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.

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Multi- Grammy Award winner conguero Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band, came to Montgomery County Community College’s Science Center Theater on Saturday night, stirring up a fiery dish of music from straight-ahead jazz, gritty soul music with infectious melodies and rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American influences. In her introduction, Helen Haynes, Director of Cultural Affairs said described this concert as the first in the Latin music series, "Then and Now: Jazz Cubano". This night's concert previewed music from Sanchez’s upcoming new release, a tribute album to John Coltrane.

Looking dapper, wearing one of his trademark hats, Sanchez commented that the band will perform “brand new material” as well as many Jazz standards. Sanchez brought an eight -piece band including Sanchez on congas and percussion; Ron Blake on trumpet and flugelhorn; Rob Hart on saxophones and flute, Johns Belzan on bass, musical director Francisco Torres on trombone, Andy Langham on piano and organ; Joey De León on timbales and percussion; and Angel Rodriguez bongos and percussion.

Sanchez and band immediately stirred things up with their great sense of humor; bantering with the audience and the sound man. The band is getting ready to go into the studio to record their 29th CD. The party officially began as Sanchez swatted the conga and his band members followed suit on the first tune “Soul Bourgeoisie” written by music director and trombonist, Francisco Torres. From the initial drum beats, this tune transformed into a spicy melody, punctuated by the blast of trumpets and the harmonies of piano and bass.

Choosing Coltrane’s music for the upcoming CD was a perfect choice for Sanchez as he talked about his lifelong admiration for the legendary tenor player. Sanchez shared that one day while in high school, living in Los Angeles, he was listening to a jazz radio station that announced an on-air interview with Coltrane. Sanchez joked about how he stayed home from school to listen to the interview, and at the end, the DJ asked Coltrane what was his favorite food. “I wondered if he would say ribs or chicken or beef,” Sanchez said. Then, there was a pause and Coltrane said, Sweet potato pie. And I said Sweet potato pie? If John Coltrane likes it, I’ll like it too! So, ever since then I asked my mom to make me sweet potato pie.” The audience roared with laughter.

One of the highlights of the evening was “Liberia” from the album “Coltrane’s Sound” with an impressive piano solo by Andham Langham and masterful work on the chekere by Joey De Leon . “Con Alma", a salute to Dizzy Gillespie was classy, and showed the band’s musical range. They segued into “The Feeling of Jazz” by John Coltrane and Duke Ellington, with excellent trombone and timbales solos. The band continued playing with such passion and you could see that they love what they do.

Without missing a beat, the band slid into their rendition of the soulful, toe-tapping, hand-clapping tune, “Raise Your Hand”. With a few “yeahs” and “ows”, reminiscent of the legendary James Brown, this tune is a reminder of Sanchez’s genius at performing all types of music.

The night concluded with Sanchez’s signature Salsa tunes. Showing their capacity for fun, and delivering such tightly performed music. The passionate and exuberant display of musicianship inspired the audience to dance in the aisles!

The "Then and Now: Jazz Cubano" series at Montgomery Community College spotlights the influence of Afro-Cuban rhythms and traditions on modern jazz.

Stay tuned for my reviews as the series continues in November with Cuban pianist Omar Sosa’s Afri-Lectric Experience and in December with Ninety Miles, a project in which jazz luminaries Stefon Harris, David Sanchez, and Christian Scott collaborate with Cuban musicians. For more information visit http://www.mc3.edu/arts/lively-arts.

More photos from the performance are in Ben Johnson's photo gallery by clicking here Ben Johnson Jazz Photos

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Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.