Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, JVC Jazz Festival 2004

Salsa Jazz Jam

Poncho Sanchez

 

Carnegie Hall, June 26, 2004:

 

       Kathy and I attend our second JVC Jazz Festival 2004 event in New York City. Tonight will be hot, hot, hot with the Salsa Jazz Jam at Carnegie Hall featuring: Oscar D’Leon and the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band. We enjoy a smooth ride into Manhattan and an early arrival at Carnegie. We have a great conversation with Ray, an usher here at Carnegie Hall for twenty eight years. He is very personable and was special friends with Ella Fitzgerald who called him, “her baby.” 

       At 8:00 P.M. exactly, the lights dim and the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band takes the stage. They are nine members strong. The opening tune is, “El Conguero.” The music is lively and bright, with a simmering 4/4 tempo that features a wild trumpet solo. The tempo drives hypnotically, as the cowbell cuts through like a knife. The conga solo is very fluid and polyrhythmic with loud, sharp accents. Poncho Sanchez immediately displays his incredible percussive genius, at center stage.

    

Poncho Sanchez

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next song, “One Mint Julep,” is the opening song on the new Poncho Sanchez CD, “Out Of Sight.” This arrangement features the guiro and a very colorful horn chart. The musical aura is staccato, bright and snappy. The ensemble joins together with an uplifting unison vocal refrain, “hey!” The trombone solo starts slow and careful and then builds to bold, brash excitement. The trombone subtly suggests a soft dissonance, followed by long sustained high notes and growls, and then executes a challenging and difficult melodic passage. The organ solos is ‘fat’ and then carefully descends melodically. The band is smokin’ with excellent accents and stops. Poncho introduces individual players David Torres (musical director) on piano and Francisco Torres on trombone.

    

David Torres

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next musical entry, a tribute to Tito Puente, is a Danny Torres’ composition which features George Ortiz on timbales. The song is appropriately titled, “Tito In The City.” The music is very syncopated and the musical arrangement showcases the colorful musical tension of the incredible horn section. The music is very lively and actually sounds like busy city traffic. The baritone sax solo is robust, rich and round; and cleverly builds into well-timed crescendo runs. The trumpet solos next, showcasing nice melodic scales and well conceived use of rests, placed in sharp contrast to the high note flourishes. The timbale solo is amazingly polyrhythmic and extremely syncopated, and also makes fine use of rests to flavor the melodic frenzy. The timbale ‘flams’ are purposely off-time to show his distinctive percussion virtuosity. The band builds to a magnificent crescendo and a big, BIG ending. YEAH BABY!

    

David Urquidi

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next arrangement has the congas playing slow and easy, and then building to a maddening conga and vocal passage. The dynamic control is very well conceived with sudden contrasts between the ‘mad’, to the melodic and steady. Poncho executes a fantastic conga solo showcasing a double-time frenzy and the use of his fists. The polyrhythmic percussion attack passes from 3/4 time to 5/4 time quite effortlessly. The piano solo is dissonant in flavor and displays the articulate use of chord melodies. There are large sustain chords on the piano, as the horns play a lilting, dissonant contrast. The tenor solo is melodic, with well timed crescendos and flourishes. The band quiets as the tenor solos with triplets and scale runs. There is a percussion solo showcasing the shekere, shadowed by the timbales and congas, both playing very quietly in the background.

    

Sal Vasquez and Tony Banda

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next song, “Amigo,” features Sal Vasquez on Cuban tres. The music has a driving 4/4 tempo. The tres solo is amazing! It features fluid scales and furious 2-note syncopated double-picking. The piano solo creatively utilizes time and space and melodic dissonance. The tenor saxophonist plays a featured flute solo which is syncopated and floats over the hot Latin rhythmic pulse. This is a very spirited ensemble feature. This excellent band arrangement exhibits the joyful musical togetherness embodied by the mesmerizing and hypnotic Latin rhythms.

    

Sal Vasquez and Tony Banda

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next song features Jimmy Bosch. The arrangement is super hot and spicy and is called “El Shing-A-Ling.” The band sings together in unison. Jimmy Bosch, on trombone, has extraordinary charisma and charm. He growls, then stops, and then stretches into emotional screams for dynamic contrast. The band quiets down as Jimmy Bosch solos. Jimmy pulls away from the microphone and tells us, “I feel better this way.” He executes exceptional accents and rests. The arrangement creates a musical feeling from heaven. The congas solo in double-time. The music surges with exuberance as the spirits soar! The congas and trombone go into a fascinating answer/response passage, as they motivate and challenge each other. The mood is exciting and invigorating. WOW!

    

Jimmy Bosch

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The last song, “Out Of Sight,” is exactly that. This James Brown composition features an incredible trumpet solo from Serafin Aguilar and the trombone by Francisco Torres smokes the stage, literally! George Ortiz on timbales is outstanding. Tony Banda on bass has been tremendous all night. The ensemble simmers and sizzles as the trumpet wails. The organ is full and rich and eventually everyone solos. Poncho Sanchez sings as the spirits are high.

    

Poncho Sanchez

    

Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band puts on a fantastic show here tonight. The entire band is tremendous. Poncho Sanchez is an inspirational band leader and exceptional soloist. Each individual musician in the ensemble, is uniquely creative and together they meld into an amazing musical team. The entire presentation is incredibly uplifting and inspiring!


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A.J. Alfaro

and.the.beat.goes.on@worldnet.att.net