David Sanchez


David Sanchez
David Sanchez

Story by Jean Timmons and Photos by James Walker, Jr.

In March 2008, the David Sanchez Quartet performed at Symphony Center, on a bill that he shared with the Danilo Perez Trio. At the conclusion of Sanchez's performance, one had the sense that it was too short. Of his December performance at Jazz Showcase, this reviewer felt again that the program was too short, initially attributing the brevity to the preceding Jazz Institute annual year-end affair. But then, hindsight can be a good thing, for now I have realized that the brevity of the performance speaks to its quality.

Sanchez appears to be a very young man, but he has been around the block, as it were. In his native Puerto Rico, he began his musical career playing percussion with salsa bands before picking up the saxophone. On the "mainland," Sanchez studied with guitarist Kenny Burrell and obviously profited from that apprenticeship. In 1989 he was working, on separate occasions, with Claudio Roditi and Eddie Palmieri. From 1991-1993 he was with Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra. Since then he has collaborated with such musicians as Roy Hargrove, Danilo Perez, and Tom Harrell, as well as recorded with his own band. Recently he recorded Cultural Survival, which was chosen as our number one album of the year by Brad Walseth (see Jazzchicago's Best of 2008).

At the Showcase the intensity and high seriousness of his music is not matched by his attire. Dressed in dark jeans and "gym" looking shoes, the medium height, solidly build Sanchez projects carefree youth but listen to his sound and watch him play. His fellow musicians were pretty serious men as well-guitarist Lage Lund, drummer Henry Cole, and bassist Orlando Fleming. Fleming was practicing on the bandstand for quite some time before the performance began.

The first piece was "Cultural Survival," and with its performance a pattern for the set was established: Sanchez, playing with his whole body, it seemed; the drummer quite simpatico and pushing Sanchez (who likes to hit notes and hold them) on; and the first solo by the guitarist. At times the drummer seemed, perhaps, too anxious. Guitarist Lund is out of the Pat Methany school instead of the Burrell bag; whomever, Sanchez is clearly moved by the intricacies of the guitarist's solos throughout the set. While the drummer is the driving, animated force through to the end, Sanchez is the image of cool.

In contrast to the first selection, the second was a ballad, with Sanchez's sax singing in a lovely way. On this piece, the influence of Coltrane peeks through. Again, the opening was followed by the guitarist's solo. Interesting how Sanchez begins playing at the end of that solo from the back of the bandstand. He came around slowly but then picked up his pace, playing with such deep feeling. The ending was so melodic with the drummer using those heavy mallets to accentuate the piece. This was Sanchez's version of "Monks Mood."

Uptempo characterized the quartet's third piece from beginning to end. The drummer really hits it. He is awfully good, almost too enthusiastic. Sanchez moved in sync with the notes he was playing. Again his opener was followed by the guitar solo. Very efficient program, although I began to wish they would surprise me. The bass player was the perfect accompanist. Not a lot of solo ambitions. And then came the surprise from that active drummer. First he used the drums like bongos, playing with his hands before taking up the brushes to pave the way for the bass player's first solo, which was resonant. It ended up a duet between drums and bass, to outstanding effect. Practice makes perfect! At the conclusion of "Ay Bendito," the verdict was in - they play music well together. At that point, too, the audience could relax and await the music to come.

In a word, the next piece of music was "smooth." It was "Well You Needn't." On it, Sanchez showed off his dexterity with his instrument. How he could still remain so serious while romping, I can't explain. Lund took his usual solo and the bassist stepped out briefly; but the drummer played - long and intensely. I got excited; the rest of the audience got excited. Sanchez and the others rejoined to take it home. And that was that. It was over. All she wrote, until the next time Mr. Sanchez comes to town.

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