Jazz music is all about change and tradition. Through 103 years of transition, the legacy of the genre has been passed on to a countless number of generations. This includes one of the most prolific styles of music in history, what has otherwise become known as Latin jazz. Since first introduced to the United States during the 1940s by Dizzy Gillespie, Latin jazz has established itself as one of the most unique influences ever experienced. The legacies of Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Chano Pozo, Machito, Desi Arnaz and others like them tell a story of unparalleled excitement and change. But as with all things associated with transitionary change, there comes a passing of the torch to the next generation. With the passing of some of Latin jazz's most notable legends, another dominant influence has come forth to send a new message.
Poncho Sanchez has emerged as one of Latin jazz's most influential figures. This is due in part to immense talent and the extinguishing of lights once lit by Puente, Santamaria, Celia Cruz and the others. Oddly enough, Poncho's entry into Latin jazz was an acquired talent he accumulated with determined effort. Born October 30, 1951 in Laredo, Texas, Poncho taught himself to play the flute, guitar, drums and timbales, before establishing himself as a "conguero." With little more than a passion for Latin jazz, Poncho set about the task of becoming one of the foremost conga players to ever evolve. He kicked around with various bands in the Los Angeles, California area before becoming a member of Cal Tjader's band in 1975. From then until his mentor's death in 1982, Poncho became a dominant force in the hearts of numerous fans and critics. Forming his own band after Tjader's death, he has built a substantial reputation as a solo performer and musician. With a number of Latin-tinged recordings to his credit, Poncho Sanchez embarks upon the recording of a bold new album entitled 'Out of Sight' for the Concord Record Label.
On Poncho's latest recording, he has chosen to stay close to his Latin ideologies. He also adds a twist of sorts to liven things up even more. As anticipated, the dynamic rhythmic influences remain consistently intact, yet he takes the CD another further by adding a distinctive slab of R&B grooves. For his next set of ingredients, Sanchez reaches deep into his pantry of goodies for more flavorful input. He adds a cup of soul with the inclusion of Ray Charles, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis and Sam Moore. If you recall, Ellis and Wesley hail from the master R&B funkmeister James Brown, while Sam is fondly remembered as a founding member of Sam & Dave of the old Stax Record Label days of the 1960s and '70s.
'Out of Sight' is a slamming CD for rhythm-induced dynamics. Over the years, Poncho has been gradually introducing soulful R&B influences into his music. His jazzy upbeat tempos have worked well with his desire to be continually creative and innovative. On the other hand, Sanchez grew up listening to the music of the '60s as a teenager. As that was the case, he felt secure in adding those influences to his latest CD. In retrospect, this could be Poncho's most ambitious album to date. With the inclusion of Charles and Moore, there are vestiges of "de ja vu" attached, especially on such tracks as "One Minit Julep" and "Hitch It To The Horse." The additions of Wesley and Ellis are just as meaningful. They help round out the soulful conveyances Poncho has attempted to project. Without a doubt, these combined ingredients provide a unique platform and twist to a fine piece of collaborative work.