Grammy-winner Poncho Sanchez provides MoCo with a spicy taste of Latin jazz.
Thursday, April 26, 2001
It is the ultimate credit to a musician to be able to elevate the listener to ecstatic heights, to provide a musical world that transcends this mortal coil long enough for the listener to forget trifles and feel a shared humanity. The Third Annual Heritage Music Festival at CSU Monterey Bay presents no less than four ensembles that promise to elevate, transcend and, well, make you want to shake your booty.
Saturday''s concert, sponsored by the CSUMB Center for Arts, Humanities and Creative Technologies and the Music and Performing Arts Institute, will feature a steady mix of Latin polyrhythms, heady brass combinations, and the emotional fervor inherent in jazz, especially Latin jazz.
Grammy Award-winning conguero Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band take top-billing at the World Theater show. He will be joined by the CSUMB Jazz Big Band, the Juan Sanchez Ensemble and the Monterey-based hard-bop quintet Along Came Betty.
Sanchez became a presence in the jazz scene in the mid-1970s when he sat in on a session by vibraphonist Cal Tjader. A week later, an impressed Tjader asked Sanchez to join his band at the famed Coconut Grove opposite Carmen McRae. For seven years, Sanchez provided the layers of percussion that marked Tjader''s band''s sound. After Tjader''s death in the early 1980s, Sanchez struck out on his own, performing in an idiom that was yet to attract the widespread audience it enjoys today.
About those years, Sanchez remarks, "My band and I really do love Latin jazz. We played this music before it was popular and I think we''ve played a part in helping it become popular again. Our main goal is always to keep Latin jazz alive, growing and moving, while being authentic to the music that we love."
Sanchez''s band plays a rich cocktail of sounds that reflects a multitude of influences, from Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria to the Jazz Crusaders. His albums have featured legendary guest artists, including Puente, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard and Diane Reeves. But there is always the steady pulse of Latin jazz coursing through his music.
"I''m proud to say that we have stuck to the basic fundamentals and the roots which are very important to us," declares Sanchez. "And, as I always say in clinics, this music is not just for Latino people. I was born in the United States and it is American music. It is for everybody!"
Joining Sanchez''s contingent on the bill is the Juan L. Sanchez Ensemble, which features the verse and voice of Juan Sanchez (no relation to Poncho), a modern-day troubadour who has transcended his Spanish roots to create a unique musical universe of Arabic and Sephardic melodies, bossa nova, rumba, urban jazz and flamenco. His band''s instrumentation produces the evocative sounds of Nueva Canción, Spanish-Latin American New Folk music. One hears a fusion of Latin rhythms, jazz and folk played by percussion, stand-up bass, guitarrón, piano, mandolin, zampoña, guitar and clarinet.
Along Came Betty, formed in 1998, is a band devoted to the spirit of the great masters of the hard-bop movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The wellspring from which they imbibe includes Art Blakey''s Jazz Messengers, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown and Hank Mobley. In the spirit of these past jazz masters, Along Came Betty swings with precise rhythms and improvised riffs as each of the five members solos and charges ahead.
The Third Annual Heritage Music Festival offers a great opportunity to hear passionate playing by great musicians who love their music. What more could a listener ask for?
The Third Annual Heritage Music Festival takes place from 4-10pm on Saturday at the CSUMB World Theater, 6th and 3rd, Building 28, in Seaside. Tickets cost $20 general and $10 for students, seniors or members of the military. For more info, call 582-4580.