Our resident Latin jazz classicist comes up with a good concept -- evoking the memories of non-Latino Afro-Cuban music pioneers Stan Kenton, Shorty Rogers and Cal Tjader -- and better still, delivers great music unfettered by any hint of routine. The Sanchez octet does so by simply being itself, without trying to imitate its subjects (if anything, the sound leans closest to Poncho's mentor Tjader, but not too close), getting off on material that they clearly relish. The program is a mix of tunes associated with these artists and some often first-rate originals by Poncho and his pianist David Torres. Torres' romping guajira "Subway Harry" (complete with very realistic sound effects) is especially good; even better is his beautifully harmonized "Afro-Cuban Fantasy." Guest vocalist Dianne Reeves does affecting work on "Morning," "Darn That Dream," and "I Remember Spring," and trumpeter/flugelhornist Sal Chacchiolo, trombonist Francisco Torres, and reedman Scott Martin have several nice solo moments -- as does, of course, Poncho the conguero.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell