When Yoshi’s San Francisco (there is also a club in Oakland) has Poncho Sanchez in the house, the club will rock. And jazz fans who were there for the recent appearance by Poncho, experienced a very special experience, like no other in the City by the Bay.
And not only was the band on fire, but the audience, who rose to their feet, and started roaring their approval, was lit up as well. In another day, Yoshi’s would be a dance club, at least for part of the week, because the urge to jump up and move is absolute and unstoppable, with a Latin band like the one Mr. Sanchez brings in. Poncho has just won the Downbeat reader’s poll for top multi-percussionist in the world, needs little introduction to most jazz listeners in the Bay Area. But when he and his band is in a real night club, the performance is for dancing, straight and simple.
Poncho has been developing his bands for many years, but as he so simply explained in a brief introduction, a lot of his music today comes from the call he got to play with the late, great Cal Tjader who recruited the very young Poncho. Cal’s band became a West Coast style setter for a Latin music sound that was beautiful, moving, and almost hypnotic. This music, which was dismissed by some critics as commercial “mood music” at the time, created huge audiences of fans. It also ignited players throughout the Bay Area and down to Los Angeles, to study and learn the forms of the music. And because these songs were passed along through hand written arrangements and by vocal tradition, it was through performing that the musicians mastered the music. This history is still providing inspiration to West Coast players who feel little difference between playing a bebop jazz tune and cozying up with straight pop for dancers.
With rock fans watching more and more recorded music instead of live bands, it could be said that the Latin music musicians are now creating the most thrilling and exciting live music being played now. And Yoshi’s is a place to see and move to this. It is a very special mix, when Poncho jumps up, and the band starts playing, the audience starts swaying and the joint is jumping. Sitting ten yards from everything in a beautiful room full of music lovers, watching the smiles on everyone’s faces and seeing the sparkle in Poncho’s eyes, is one experience that this listener will always remember and cherish.
Yoshi’s presents frequent appearances by Latin musicians and bands.
Check their schedule at www.yoshi’s.com
Thanks to Lisa Bautista for her assistance with this article.
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