Poncho Sanchez

El Mejor

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A 1992 session by percussionist Poncho Sanchez and his seven-piece band (three horns, two more percussionists, piano, and bass), El Mejor hews closer to the jazz side of the Latin jazz description. Songs like "Sueños," the bossa nova-tinged "El Jamaiquino," and the flute-driven "Angel" are relaxed, even mellow, and despite the three conga and timbales players, pianist and musical director David Torres drives the band throughout, making the overall sound closer to the likes of Cal Tjader than Tito Puente. The focus on slow to mid-tempo tunes, most of them with vocals (by Sanchez, bassist Tony Banda, and bongo player José Papo Rodríguez), gives El Mejor a different feel than more up-tempo, groove-oriented Afro-Cuban jazz albums. In some ways, it's close to the sound repopularized by the Buena Vista Social Club albums about a half decade later; the bolero "Dichoso" is particularly similar. Although El Mejor translates as "The Best," note that this isn't a compilation album.

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