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Poncho Sanchez: Soul of the Conga

Even though master conguero Poncho Sanchez’s albums are fairly predictable, there’s also a good-vibes ethos about them that immediately hooks you in. Soul of the Conga is no exception. Dripping with the funky booty-sauce of ’60s Latin boogaloo, the album’s a nonstop body-rocker.

Ace Hammond B-3 organist Joey DeFrancesco drops a shitload of grease throughout, which helps the propulsive polyrhythms created by Sanchez and fellow percussionists Ramon Banda and Jose “Papo” Rodriguez evoke a slippery sensation that’s easy on the feet and hips, especially on tunes such as Scott Martin’s James Brown-informed “Joseito” and Alphonse Mouzon’s fusion classic “Virtue.” DeFrancesco isn’t the only special guest: The Ortiz Brothers help drive Soul of the Conga south of the border with Mexicana highlights such as the festive “Venga a Bailar Bailadores” and “Fania Fungue,” while trumpeter Terence Blanchard dims the lights on a glowing reading of “Stella by Starlight.”

Sanchez, however, is hardly outshined by his special guests. Whether he’s flaming the fires on irresistible grooves, like his “Oye Lo,” which features a sizzling solo from trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo, or pounding out hard-hitting, housequaking solos, as on “Venga a Bailar Bailadores,” his playing is always lightning in a bottle.

Ain’t nothing too heavy on Soul of the Congas, just a funky good time.

Originally Published