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Pop - Released January 1, 1997 | Concord Records

Latin jazz's hardest-working conguero invites two of the original Jazz Crusaders, tenor Wilton Felder and trombonist Wayne Henderson, on board to graft their sound and a few old JC numbers onto his classic salsa ensemble. The results are not entirely lodged in Sanchez's camp -- the title track leans toward a 6/8 jazz feeling, and "MJ's Funk" is a more or less straight-ahead blues, both butting horns with Sanchez's domineering congas -- while "Scratch" has a cool Latin funk feeling and some spiffy solo tradeoffs near the end. But Felder and Henderson appear together only on three of the 11 cuts and Felder on one other, so this is only a partial tribute album at most. When the two Jazz Crusaders are not around, Sanchez's regular reedman Scott Martin, trombonist Alex Henderson, and trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo fill the breach quite capably. And should the faithful become restless, there is pure Poncho salsa in "Prestame Tu Corazon" and "(Baila El) Suave Cha," infectiously propping up guest "annotator" Bill Cosby's droll warning, "If this is your first Poncho Sanchez album, I advise you to get another job." ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released September 20, 2019 | Concord Picante

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Jazz - Released September 20, 2019 | Concord Picante

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | Concord Records

Conga player Poncho Sanchez has been one of the leaders in Latin jazz for a decade. This outstanding studio recording delivers the excitement with the addition of special guest Mongo Santamaria on "Watermelon Man" and several originals. Great solos by trumpeter Stan "Be Bop" Martin and baritone saxophonist Scott Martin add spice to the lively percussion of Sanchez and his group. ~ Ken Dryden
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2002 | Concord Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1995 | Concord Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Concord Records

Released in 2001, Keeper of the Flame isn't a compilation, an anthology, or a best-of. Instead, this package finds Concord reissuing Poncho Sanchez' first two Picante dates, 1982's Sonando and 1983's Bien Sabroso, as a two-CD set. Those albums weren't Sanchez' first ones ever -- before signing with Concord, the conguero recorded two LPs for Discovery in 1979 and 1980, respectively. Neither Sonando nor Bien Sabroso ever went out of print, and those who already have those albums on CD have no reason to acquire Keeper of the Flame. However, this double-CD is well worth obtaining if you don't have those albums on CD. Back in 1982-1983, Sonando and Bien Sabroso set the tone for Sanchez' Concord output -- like his subsequent albums, both are dominated by instrumental Latin jazz but contains a few salsa vocal numbers as well. The noteworthy salsa tracks on Keeper of the Flame include the spirited "Este Son" (featuring vocalist Jose Perico Hernandez) and the infectious cha cha "Sonando," which is based on Ray Barretto's "Cocinando." As solid and rewarding as this material is, Sanchez would only get better as the 1980s progressed. But Keeper of the Flame reminds listeners that his association with Concord got off to a promising start with Sonando and Bien Sabroso. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Concord Picante

With one or two exceptions, conga player Poncho Sanchez's entire recording career as a leader has been documented by Concord. In 1998, Concord celebrated its 25th anniversary with a Jazz Heritage series of samplers. The Sanchez CD has a selection apiece from 11 of his releases, including guest appearances by Mongo Santamaria (on "Watermelon Man"), Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Harris ("Cold Duck Time"), Tito Puente, and the former Jazz Crusaders front line (Wilton Felder and Wayne Henderson). Among the other highlights are "Papa Gato," "A Night in Tunisia," "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid," and Cal Tjader's "I Showed Them." A worthwhile introduction to the exuberant and accessible music of Poncho Sanchez. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1999 | Concord Picante

Recorded live at two leading California nightspots, Yoshi's in Oakland and the Latin-specializing Conga Room in Los Angeles (the actual sound in the Conga Room is never as good as that on this CD), Concord no doubt hoped for an exceptionally hot live session from this tireless defender of the Latin jazz tradition. What they got was merely a decent album, listenable, danceable, yet lacking that extra flash of Latin fire. Sanchez leads his usual eight-piece ensemble -- augmented at Yoshi's by Mike Whitman on baritone sax -- and feeds the percussive polyrhythmic battles with his congas (as well as a turn on the timbales on "Guaripumpe"). On the "Latin soul" agenda, there is a dead-on faithful rendition of "Watermelon Man," with a few histrionic things at the close, and a reprise of Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time," which soon turns into "Listen Here" and "Everything I Play Gonh Be Funky." There are also some spirited passings of the bop baton from trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo to trombonist Francisco Torres to tenor saxophonist Scott Martin and back again on "Ican." It's OK, but not Sanchez' best. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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World - Released January 1, 2009 | Concord Picante

3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he real buzz is in the details: subtly percolating rhythms, intense arrangements, powerful soloing and the ever-present prodding of Sanchez's two-fisted attack."
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Concord Records

The legendary conguero may be known as one of the modern kings of all jazz that's Latin, but he's also an old-school soul junkie at heart, having grown up in southern California in the '60s; while he was learning to play tropical Latin music professionally, his radio was full of classic Stax and Motown. Increasingly aware that classic R&B songs adapt well to the jazzy cha cha tempos that drive his ensemble, Sanchez evolves beautifully on the new collection into a style of Latin soul that's truly compelling. The opening track, the funky, brass-driven cha cha "One Mint Julep," features not only the organ arpeggios of Billy Preston, but also two of the horn guys from the James Brown band, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis. "JB's Strut" funks out with the horniest of them, but Brown is paid even greater homage on blues/soul/big-band/Latin renderings of three of his tunes, "Saints and Sinners," "Out of Sight" (sung with a tongue-in-cheek Brown bravura by Sanchez), and "Conmigo." And while he's at it, Sanchez invites two legendary soul men to make things even more authentic. Sam Moore has a blast with the sassy "Hitch It to the Horse," while Ray Charles adds his whimsical touch to the salsified blues tune "Mary Ann." The remaining question is, just where is the Godfather of Soul himself? Hopefully, he's proud of one of the most unique tributes to him ever fashioned. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2004 | Concord Records

Instant Party includes 11 previously released tracks by bandleader and conga player Poncho Sanchez, focusing on his Concord label recordings. Unlike similar Concord artists who have recorded for numerous labels during their career, including Mongo Santamaria and Tito Puente, Sanchez has been with the company for the majority of his career, making the track picks truly depict the best of his overall output as opposed to just his output on a particular label. Taken from 11 separate albums, highlights include "Listen Here/Cold Duck Time," "Chile con Soul," "One Mint Julep" (with Ray Charles), "Bésame Mama" (with Mongo Santamaria), and "Watermelon Man." These tracks deliver exactly what the title promises while presenting the Latin jazz novice with a quality sampling of Poncho Sanchez. ~ Al Campbell
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World - Released December 4, 2015 | Concord Records

Recorded live at two leading California nightspots, Yoshi's in Oakland and the Latin-specializing Conga Room in Los Angeles (the actual sound in the Conga Room is never as good as that on this CD), Concord no doubt hoped for an exceptionally hot live session from this tireless defender of the Latin jazz tradition. What they got was merely a decent album, listenable, danceable, yet lacking that extra flash of Latin fire. Sanchez leads his usual eight-piece ensemble -- augmented at Yoshi's by Mike Whitman on baritone sax -- and feeds the percussive polyrhythmic battles with his congas (as well as a turn on the timbales on "Guaripumpe"). On the "Latin soul" agenda, there is a dead-on faithful rendition of "Watermelon Man," with a few histrionic things at the close, and a reprise of Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time," which soon turns into "Listen Here" and "Everything I Play Gonh Be Funky." There are also some spirited passings of the bop baton from trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo to trombonist Francisco Torres to tenor saxophonist Scott Martin and back again on "Ican." It's OK, but not Sanchez' best. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | Concord Records

This is a particularly special Poncho Sanchez recording, for the conguero's popular Latin jazz band is joined by the great tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris on four songs. Harris is so strong on his "Cold Duck Time" and Art Farmer's "Happy Blues," "Rapture," and "Afro Blue" that it is unfortunate that he is not on the other seven selections (which include Cedar Walton's "Ugetsu" and Gerry Mulligan's "Five Brothers") as well. At the time, Sanchez' band had his usual rhythm section (bassist Tony Banda, Ramon Banda on timbales, pianist David Torres, and Papo Rodriguez on bongos), plus longtime trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo, trombonist Bruce Paulson, and Scott Martin on alto and tenor. Everything works on this highly enjoyable set, one of Poncho Sanchez' definitive recordings. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Concord Records

Percussionist Poncho Sanchez has long led one of the top Latin jazz groups, succeeding his former boss, the late Cal Tjader. On this enjoyable release, Sanchez features plenty of solos from Justo Almario (on alto, tenor, and flute), trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo, and trombonist Art Velasco, and the three percussionists have many opportunities to romp. The jazz content is pretty high with such songs as "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid," "Senor Blues," and "Manteca" alternating with group originals. A fine introduction to the accessible Latin jazz of Poncho Sanchez. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Concord Picante

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Concord Picante

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Concord Records

Journeyman Latin jazz bandleader Poncho Sanchez delivers another stellar and high-energy release with Do It! Featuring Sanchez's longtime ensemble, the album also includes appearances by funk legends Tower of Power, who play throughout, as well as South African jazz/funk legend trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Interestingly, rather than revisit one of Masekela's better-known hits like "Grazin' in the Grass," Sanchez chose to delve into older pieces from Masekela's debut, The Emancipation of Hugh Masekela, including the celebratory "Ha Lese Le Di Khanna" and the moody "Child of the Earth." Both showcase Masekela's evocative vocals. With such superb guest artists here, Do It! delivers an electrifying mix of dancefloor-ready pieces, modal Afro-jazz numbers, and Latin-inflected funk. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1990 | Concord Records

Poncho Sanchez's long string of recordings for the Concord Picante label are all easily recommended to fans of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz. On this fine effort, Sanchez's octet welcomes guest Tito Puente (heard on timbales) to "Ti-Pon-Pa" and "Lover, Come Back to Me." Otherwise, one hears Sanchez's regularly working band, a group that features trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo, trombonist Arturo Velasco, the reeds of Gene Burkert, pianist Charlie Otwell, bassist Tony Banda and three percussionists; several songs have group vocals. Otwell contributed five spirited originals, which are joined by such numbers as Cal Tjader's "Soul Burst," "Will You Still Be Mine" and a medley of "Cold Sweat" and "Funky Broadway." Accessible and very danceable music that is also creative within the boundaries of the popular idiom. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1992 | Concord Records

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. ~ Stewart Mason