Juan L. Sanchez Ensemble delivers a special show before returning to Spain.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The music of Monterey’s Juan L. Sanchez Ensemble does not recognize international borders. On their second CD titled Hijos de la Tierra, the crack group of local musicians allows Latin, African, Middle Eastern and American music to bleed into one another. The opening number, “Primo,” begins with an ice storm of kora playing by Mamadou Djabate, a Grammy nominated master of the 21-stringed African harp, before darting off into a Mideast meets Latin sound.
Sanchez says the unexpected mix of cultures on Hijos de la Tierra is because the Pacific Grove-based musician hails from southern Spain, a region where Middle Eastern, African and Spanish influences swirl together.
Also, Sanchez got a traditional African sound on the album by inviting Djabate to perform on Hijos de la Tierra after hearing the kora player at the 2004 California World Fest in Grass Valley. “When we listened to each other’s music, we felt like there was a lot of affinity in our musical styles,” Sanchez says.
While Sanchez’s musical influences are global, a lot of the musician’s lyrics are inspired by local experiences, particularly when he was a third-grade bilingual teacher at Prunedale’s Echo Valley Elementary School. “I was inspired by the stories of the kids in my class and their families,” he says.
Sanchez says he put the ensemble together while working on his 1997 debut CD Cosmopolita. His current band features a handful of regional powerhouse players: flutist/saxophone player Paul Contos, multi-instrumentalist Dayan Kai, bassist Steve Uccello, vocalist Noe Hinojosa and percussionist Chris Garcia.
The Juan L. Sanchez Ensemble’s Saturday performance is one of the group’s last shows before the band leader returns to Spain for a year with his family. There, Sanchez, who also teaches service learning in the social justice curriculum at CSUMB, hopes to perform at schools and other venues.
THE JUAN L. SANCHEZ ENSEMBLE perform 8pm Saturday, May 31, at The Ol’ Factory Café, 1725 Contra Costa St., Sand City. $15/general admission; $10/students and seniors; $5/kids under 12. 394-7336.