I've heard saxophonist David Sanchez in many contexts over the past decade--his callow but impressive U.S. debut on trumpeter Charlie Sepulveda's 1991 disc, The New Arrival; various collaborations with pianist Danilo Perez; his own subsequent recordings; and several Chicago appearances--and I have to wonder whether he ever has a bad night, or even a bad idea. Last year's Obsesion (Columbia), a bundle of Latin American standards in big string-and-horn arrangements, could have capsized under a load of sugary excess and false sentiment, but Sanchez's clarion timbre and intense focus made even the bulkiest orchestrations sound nimble and direct. The album, which garnered Sanchez a wholly deserved Grammy nomination, deepened the hemisphere-spanning fusion he'd staked out on his preceding efforts, featuring songs from Brazil and Cuba as well as his native Puerto Rico. But I don't mean to pigeonhole him: he navigates mainstream jazz as deftly as he does Carribean music. Both idioms welcome his bittersweet soprano and positively embrace his chocolaty tenor, which makes romantic insinuations on ballads and impassioned promises on songs and danzones. Though he's only 30, Sanchez already belongs to that elite club of musicians who justify attention every time they pass through town; hopefully the sea of saxophonists in the audience will part enough for the rest of us to squeeze in. Like all the best Afro-Cuban or jazz musicians, he draws as much on the talents of his rhythm section as he does on his own. Sanchez brings two of his longtime accomplices, pianist Edsel Gomez and percussionist Pernell Saturnino; drummer Ralph Peterson--a distinctive stylist and bandleader in his own right, and not known as an aficionado of Latin jazz--is the group's wild card. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andrew Eccles.