Poncho Sanchez
& His Latin Jazz Band

Mayne Stage, Chicago, IL
March 13, 2011

Poncho Sanchez

Story by Brad Walseth and Photos by John Broughton, Copyright 2011

It was an "instant party" last Sunday night when legendary conguero Poncho Sanchez brought his high-powered Latin Jazz band to the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. Perhaps best known for his association with vibraphonist Cal Tjader, Sanchez has, since Tjader's death, made a name for himself as one of the foremost Latin percussionists and bandleaders around, releasing many well-received albums and inspiring audiences world wide to get up and dance.

Starting the late set off with a tune written by band member trombonist Francisco Torres (I believe it was "Delifonse") from Sanchez's 2010 Grammy (and Latin Grammy) Award nominated album Psychedlic Blues, Sanchez and his band made sure the crowd knew it was going to be a good time for all. Sanchez started off on the congas, but he was up and singing and dancing away soon on the "Willie Bobo Medley" from the new album. The band was rocking as Poncho and Joey De Leon harmonized on the medley of the Sammy Henry-written "I Don't Know," "Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fries" and grooving "Spanish Grease." The dancers filled the dance floor for this number, which also featured a fiery trumpet solo by Ron Blake.

A cha-cha ("Perdido") led into a joyous hand-clapping celebration before George Ortiz was showcased on a timbale solo on "Ugetsu." Playing a request from an audience member, Sanchez and band performed their Latinized version of "Watermelon Man" with David Torres switching from acoustic piano to organ. Perhaps the highlight of the evening occurred next as Sanchez and band played their version of Dizzy Gillespies' "Con Alma," which will soon be recorded for a Dizzy tribute project. Soloists here were saxophonist Rob Hardt and De Leon on shekere (gourd).

"Time to dance salsa!" Sanchez announced as the band launched into "Ven Morena" and the leader rushed over to take over the timbales. Sanchez has been noted for his ability to merge various forms of music into his concerts and albums, and next he performed a medley of soul and R&B classics that he has recorded, starting with Jr. Walker and the All Stars' "Shotgun" before leaping into James Brown's "Cold Sweat" and Wilson Pickett's "Funky Broadway." Hardt again showed some great chops on the sax, while longtime Sanchez bassist Tony Banda got in on the solo action. Meanwhile, more crowd-pleasing salsa was on tap for the encore. Throughout it all, Sanchez was the center of attention - exuding a supreme love of life - his eyes sparkling and his face beaming with joy.

Ron Blake

David Torres

Rob Hardt

Tony Banda

Francesco Torres

George Ortiz

Joey De Leon

Check out other recent concerts reviews and photos

Return to jazzchicago home