Poncho Sanchez
"Raise Your Hand"

(Concord Picante)
Raise Your Hand

Review by "Mosquito"

Latin-jazz veteran and Southern California-based conga drummer Poncho Sanchez delivers his latest album, "Raise Your Hand" which features legendary Puerto Rican singer, Andy Montanez, and other legends such as Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones and Eddie Floyd. The record is divided in three different styles; Latin Jazz, Salsa, and Rhythm n'Blues with a Pop influence. One can only appreciate the efforts of a richly influenced artist like Poncho Sanchez.

The highlight of the album was the Latin Jazz based tunes. One thing about certain Latin Jazz albums is that simplicity in the arrangements sometimes satisfies only the dancer, but in this case, it satisfies both listener and dancer respectfully. With Jazz harmony as the center of these compositions, it allowed room for lots of blowing and creative interaction between the soloists and the rhythm section. On a tune like "Rosarito," the lights dim with a laid back Cha-cha that includes a tasteful piano solo by David Torres. There is nothing like a funky Cha-cha that simply grooves really hard. Then on "Gestation," the percussion section becomes alive in an Afro-Cuban based rhythmic dialogue with a 6/8 Clave. On this tune, Mr. Sanchez opens up on a soulful conga solo. "Clave" means key in Spanish, and it is a rhythmic tool used in Latin music. Clave has different patterns, such as son clave, clave negra, and 6/8 clave. These rhythms permeate American music as well (Rock and Roll and Jazz).

This album is definitely one to get the party started with some swinging salsa tunes. The choruses are catchy and the arrangements are true to traditional Latin form. I like how in some of these salsa numbers there is more emphasis on the soloist than the singer. Traditionally, the sonero (singer) is the one who dominates. Harmonically and rhythmically, this album does not venture outside the box nor pushes the envelope; instead, it stays within context accentuating recognizable Latin shapes. The good thing is that all these tunes have a lot of drive behind them by a powerful rhythm section, and with the swinging conga feel of Mr. Poncho Sanchez.

The album closes with a Rhythm n'Blues track "Knock on Wood." This is a perfect song for radio play. You can't help but bop your head to the groove of Joey Heredia with his funky back beat on this number. I did like the songs individually, although I cannot agree with the combination of styles. There is plenty of Afro Cuban Jazz and Salsa for everyone, as well as great performances by its collaborators.

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