In 1962, Poncho Sanchez purchased the album Coltrane on Impulse. He was 14. It was the first album he'd bought with his own money. He'd been under the saxophonist's spell for years, listening to him on the radio in Los Angeles. Trane's Delight, the first album by Sanchez in seven years, is a thank you, a tribute to one of his musical pillars. Issued by Concord, the conguero's home since 1982, the date is a heartfelt homage to the saxophonist's influence as well as a seamless extension of Sanchez's signature brand of Latin jazz.
The 11-track set features Sanchez's longtime band: trombonist and musical director Francisco Torres, trumpet and flügelhorn master Ron Blake, saxophonist Robert Hardt, pianist Andy Langham, bassists Rene Camacho and Ross Schodek, and percussionists Joey DeLeon and Giancarlo Anderson. There are three Coltrane tunes here -- "Liberia," "Blue Train," and "Giant Steps" -- as well as a Latinized read of Duke Ellington's "The Feeling of Jazz," from 1963's Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. Sanchez takes insightful and wide liberties with the material. In his liner notes, jazz historian and author Ashley Khan argues that this is just as it should be given the saxophonist's boundary-extending example. "Giant Steps" is offered as a spirited mambo with dueling percussion and a complex horn chart structured in staggered rhythms. "Liberia" is delivered as hard-swinging, spiritual, Afro-Cuban hard bop, with fiery montunos from Langham and a burning trombone solo by Torres. "Blue Train" is a deep-hued cha-cha. The latter comes across as a bluesy swagger that gives way to Hardt's sweet-toned alto in a sprightly bebop vernacular, and the up-mixed percussion section percolates right alongside it. But Sanchez offers his own Latin jazz nod to 'Trane with the band's reading of Hubert Laws' "Soul Bourgeoise" -- immortalized by the conguero's early idols the Jazz Crusaders on 1965's landmark Chile con Soul. It' a funky cha cha with a roiling tenor solo from Hardt. "Si Te Dicen" is a rich, silky bolero that juxtaposes the Joe Cuba Sextet version with Coltrane's warm ballad style. Langham's "Sube" melds mambo, salsa, modal jazz, and post-bop in a glorious stew, with Sanchez and the percussionists nodding at the influence of Mongo Santamaria. The other originals from Sanchez and Torres include "Yam'mote," a smoking salsa blues with fine soloing from the trombonist and "Poncho Sanchez's Medley #2" -- "Baila Me Gente," "El Sabroso," and "El Shing-A-Ling" -- which offer seamless, impeccably arranged salsa with fine singing by Sanchez and a wondrous flute break by Hardt. The title cut readily references the bop frame of Tadd Dameron's "Our Delight" inside a hard-hitting mambo. The closer is a modernized read of Bobby Manrique's sparkling salsa "Todo Termino" (it appeared on a Sammy Gonzalez y Los Torbellinos album from 1978), with gorgeous vocals from Norell Thomas. Trane's Delight is savvy, sophisticated, and funky: a personal tribute that reveals the joy offered by Coltrane's inspiration. More, it is a welcome return for Sanchez, a jazz giant and creative inspiration in his own right.