For more than three decades as a leader and sideman, Grammy Award-winning conguero Poncho Sanchez has stirred up a fiery stew of straight-ahead jazz, gritty soul music, and infectious melodies and rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American sources.
Now he’s coming to Grass Valley for the biggest local dance party of the year.
On Sunday, Sept. 28, Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band will perform during a benefit for Bear Yuba Land Trust at the historic North Star House in Grass Valley. This end of summer concert and dance party is the finale in a three-part jazz series and the biggest fundraiser of the year for BYLT’s ongoing land conservation projects, trail building, outdoor education and popular trekking program. To date, BYLT has conserved 9,000 acres within the Bear and Yuba watersheds.
Local dance instructors will teach salsa dancing during this high energy event. Latin-themed boxed picnic dinners by Antonio Ayestaran Catering are available for pre-order or concert-goers can purchase food from Horn of the Bull Taqueria and other food vendors. Local restaurants, caterers and chefs will participate in a community judged salsa contest. Daiquiris, wine, beer from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, sodas and water will be available to purchase. Land Trust supporters can shop for fabulous items at the Silent Auction or bid on fabulous vacations such as white water rafting trips, hot air ballooning and lodging near Yosemite during the exciting Live Auction.
Poncho’s influences are numerous, but two stand out – conga drummer and composer, Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
“These two musicians were the pioneers of what is now known as Latin jazz. Chano Pozo was a genius. He’s considered the godfather of conga drummers, and he’s someone whom I respect a great deal. And of course, Dizzy Gillespie was an iconic artist in American jazz. I had the honor and pleasure of working with him on several occasions. These guys were the first musicians to bring elements of Latin music to American jazz – which has resulted in some of the greatest music of the last 50 or 60 years,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez’s touring band takes a traditional approach to Latin music, paying attention to rhythm and historical significance to keep the heritage alive. The band includes: pianist David Torres, saxophonist Rob Hardt, trumpeter Ron Blake, trombonist/ vocalist Francisco Torres, bassist Tony Banda, timbalist George Ortiz and percussionist Joey De Leon, Jr.
Born in 1951 in Laredo, Texas to a large Mexican-American family, Sanchez, the youngest of 11 children grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles. He was raised on an unusual cross section of sounds: “straight-ahead jazz,” Latin jazz and American soul. By adolescence, he was shaped by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. Sanchez taught himself to play guitar, flute, drums and timbales. Eventually he settled on the congas.
In 1975, after working the club scene for several years, Sanchez, 24 landed a permanent spot in Cal Tjader’s band.
“He was very elegant, very dignified, and when he played, he played beautifully. The touch that he had on the vibes – nobody has that sound. To me, he was – and is, and always will be – the world’s greatest vibe player,” said Sanchez.
Sanchez remained with Tjader until the bandleader’s death in 1982. That same year, he signed with Concord for the release of Sonando, an album that marked the beginning of a musical partnership that has spanned more than 25 years and has yielded more than two dozen recordings including the 1999 Grammy winner, “Latin Soul.”
“To me, Latin jazz is the world’s greatest music. It has the melodic and harmonic sophistication of jazz and American standards, and the flavor and energy of Latin American music. What I’m most proud of is that this music – while it may sound exotic at times – is from America. It was born in New York City, when Chano Pozo met Dizzy Gillespie for the first time in the mid-1940s. They created something that didn’t exist before in this country. I’m very proud to take this music all over the world all the time.”
General Admission Tickets for Net-Yet-Members are available at BriarPatch Co-op, Clock Tower Records and at the gate on concert day. For BYLT members, purchase tickets online at www.bylt.org, call 272-5994 x 211 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save Land. Build Trails. Encounter Nature.
Submitted to KNCO