For more than three decades as both a leader and a sideman, Poncho Sanchez has stirred up a fiery blend of straightahead jazz, gritty soul music, and infectious melodies & rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American sources. His influences are numerous, but among the more prominent figures that inform his music are two of the primary architects of Latin jazz – conga drummer and composer Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
A native of Laredo, Texas, Sanchez moved to Los Angeles at the age of four, where he was deeply influenced by the music he heard in the Chicano neighborhood in which he lived. Initially a guitarist, he played with a series of junior high school and high school rhythm & blues bands. Sanchez then taught himself how to play the conga by spending hours practicing Caj Tjader, Machito, and Tito Puente records. He was also deeply influenced by the hard bop sounds of the Jazz Crusaders.
After more than two decades in music, Sanchez’s efforts paid off when his album, Latin Soul, received a Grammy award as Best Latin Album of 1999. Throughout the next decade, Sanchez continued to record, releasing such albums as 2000’s Soul of the Conga, 2001’s Latin Spirits, 2003’s Out of Sight!, 2005’s Do It!, 2007’s Raise Your Hand, and 2009’s hard bop-influenced Psychedelic Blues. In 2011, he paid tribute to the innovative Afro-Cuban recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo by teaming up with trumpeter Terence Blanchard for Chano y Dizzy.
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