Releasing two Poncho Sanchez titles under Conga Caliente in 2002 seems like a perfect way to mark the 20th year of the percussionist's relationship with Concord Picante. Both Fuerte from 1988 and La Familia from 1989 showcase Sanchez and friends on a number of excellent compositions. Although a large group of players fills each band, an infectious blend of flutes, pianos, and of course congas creates a light, atmospheric sound. On Fuerte, the arrangements create contagious rhythm on pieces like "Baila Mi Gente" and "Co Co My My" by carefully weaving each instrument into an intricate tapestry. On "Alafia," Kenny Goldberg's tenor propels the band forward while Sanchez and bongo player David Romero provide a steady pulse and rhythm-filled underpinning. La Familia utilizes an even larger horn section while still managing to maintain an uncrowded style. There's a fun take on Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't" and a raucous version of the funky, sexist "Let a Woman Be a Woman, Let a Man Be a Man." The liner notes from the original albums aren't overly detailed, but do provide a good rundown on each tune. Conga Caliente offers an hour and a half of fiery Latin music and will serve as a fine primer on Sanchez.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2