WCSU

Artist Profiles - Bandleader Poncho Sanchez

Poncho Sanchez is a Mexican-American conguero (conga player), Latin jazz band leader, and salsa singer. He was born in Laredo, Texas in October, 1951. but was reared in Norwalk, California. Growing up, Sanchez was exposed to and influenced by two very different styles of music: Afro-Cuban music (mambo, son, cha-cha, rumba, guaracha, salsa) by greats such as Tito Puente, and bebop jazz, including the works of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He was also deeply influenced by the hard bop sounds of the Jazz Crusaders.

As a soloist, Sanchez has been featured on albums by the Jazz Crusaders, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Dianne Reeves, Joey DeFrancesco, and Terence Blanchard. Becoming a member of vibraphonist Caj Tjader's Band in 1975, Sanchez remained with the group until Tjader's death on May 5, 1982. By then, he had already planted the seeds for his own career as a bandleader. He recorded two solo albums — Poncho in 1979 and Straight Ahead in 1980 — and began performing with his own group in 1980, during Tjader's vacations.

After more than two decades in music, Sanchez's efforts paid off when his album, Latin Soul, received a Grammy award as Best Latin Album of 1999. Throughout the next decade, Sanchez continued to record, releasing such albums as 2000's Soul of the Conga, 2001's Latin Spirits, 2003's Out of Sight!, 2005's Do It!, 2007's Raise Your Hand, and 2009's hard bop-influenced Psychedelic Blues. In 2011, he paid tribute to the innovative Afro-Cuban recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo by teaming up with trumpeter Terence Blanchard for Chano y Dizzy! Sanchez followed it up with a concert set entitled with Live in Hollywood, with his Latin Jazz Band.