Poncho Sanchez | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Poncho Sanchez

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The distinction between jazzy Latin bands and Latin jazz bands is less subtle than you'd think. In any case, percussionist Poncho Sanchez exploits it for all it's worth in his terrific conjunto, wherein the repetitive rhythms and exhortatory vocals never subsume such fundamental jazz virtues of swing and improvisation. Like most Latin jazz leaders, Sanchez spices the African-derived rhythms of Cuba with bits of Puerto Rico's salsa tradition. But unlike the rest of them, the Texas-born Sanchez traces his heritage to Mexico; he learned such rhythms as the montuno and guajira growing up in Los Angeles. There he also gained a healthy appreciation for American soul music, which lends his music yet another flavor--unexpected and grandly complementary. Sanchez honed his craft in Latin jazz groups led by the late vibraphonist Cal Tjader, and his own band surpasses its models in the intensity of its locked-in rhythm section. Longtime sideman Sol Cracchiollo supplies the requisite blistering trumpet solos, and the band's skintight mesh benefits from the presence of not one but two family units: bassist Tony Banda and his brother Ramon on timbales; trombonist Andy Martin and brother Scott on saxes. Just try not to dance. Friday, 11:30 PM, China Club, 616 W. Fulton; 466-0400.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lauren Deutsch.

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