STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Six from Poncho Sanchez


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Today, let's check out some videos of percussionist Poncho Sanchez, who will be bringing his band to St. Louis to perform Wednesday, April 16 through Saturday, April 19 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Last seen here in 2012 at the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival, Sanchez and his band could be considered the standard-bearers for small-group, mainstream Latin jazz. Though the personnel has changed over the years, the group's instrumentation - three percussionists, bass, keyboards, and a three- or four-member horn section - and their basic approach and sound have remained remarkably consistent.

Sanchez, who's now 63, was born the son of Mexican immigrants in Texas and raised in California. At first a guitarist and singer, he switched to the conga drums while in high school and got his big break in his early twenties with vibraphonist Cal Tjader, staying with Tjader's band for nearly seven years.

Before his death in 1982, Tjader urged his label Concord Records to sign Sanchez as a solo act. They did, simultaneously helping to launch his career as a bandleader, and Sanchez went on to release 19 albums for the label, including in 1999 the Grammy Award-winning Latin Soul. Since moving to the Universal label shortly after that, Sanchez has released a dozen more albums, the most recent being 2012's Live in Hollywood.

Given that Sanchez has performed here in St. Louis several times in the last few years, today's selection of clips concentrates on material that's just come online in the last 12 months, although at least a couple of the videos are from a while back.

First up, though, is a relatively recent selection, an audience-made video of Sanchez and band playing “El Conguero" last July at the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts in California. While it takes a minute for the music to start, and the camera work is a bit uneven in spots, the audio is quite nice, and it's a good example of how Sanchez uses what amounts to a personal theme song ("Yo soy el conguero“) to kick off and establish a tone for his set.

Down below, you can see Sanchez and band perform “Ven Pa Bailar" in March, 2012 at the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival, and below that, there are a couple of undated clips recorded at B.B. King's in NYC. The first features the tune “Keeper of the Flame," while the second is a medley of songs associated with the famed Latin-jazz percussionist Willie Bobo.

The fifth clip, labeled simply “Descarga," is from an undated TV appearance and features tasty solos from Sanchez and former pianist/music director David Torres.

And in the sixth and final spot, there's a complete show from 1991, apparently released on home video as “A Night at Kimball's East." While the band's personnel and the song list certainly have changed, Sanchez' musical consistency means that what you see and hear in this show isn't all that different that what you likely can expect to hear at the Bistro later this month.

For more about Poncho Sanchez, check out this older interview with JustSalsa.com; this conversation with LatinJazzNet.com from 2010; and the podcast interview Sanchez recorded for Jazz St. Louis before appearing at the Bistro in 2008.

You can see and hear the rest of today's videos after the jump...

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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