Poncho Sanchez

Poncho at Montreux

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If it can be believed, Poncho Sanchez's band is as tight on-stage as they are in the studio. With intricate hits from the percussion section, and screaming horn kicks, all with Swiss watch timing, it is no wonder that Sanchez is one of the best-known bandleaders in Latin jazz. The only cue to the listener that this is a live recording is the enthusiastic applause of the adoring audience at the Montreux Jazz Festival. As has become a hallmark of Sanchez's particular style, almost all the tunes strut along at guaracha tempo, barely ever breaking a sweat. Similarly, the repertoire choices tend to hover around bluesy changes and soul sensibility. The effect is a whole lot of California, and not a lot of Cuba. Perhaps this sensibility is a product of his long stint with the hugely popular bandleader Cal Tjader, who had also developed a very accessible style, making Afro-Cuban easily digestible and palatable to a wide range of listeners. Perhaps it is because the sparse approach allows every note to ring clear, creating an imminently listenable sound. Whatever the source, tight, less-is-more playing seems to be the order of the day, and has over time won Sanchez an enormous fan base.

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