Oct 22, 2009
Poncho Sanchez just turned 58, so he can be forgiven if he wants to spend some time reminiscing about his youth. Psychedelic Blues, his latest release, is a nostalgic look at some of his jazz influences and favorite songs while growing up in the Southwest. He reinterprets material written by John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Horace Silver and others in a decidedly funky manner.
Sanchez, an ace conga player, works with his usual band mates here, including trumpeter Ron Blake. In an effort to shake things up a bit, he recruited Andrew Synowiec, the guitarist from the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band, an LA based group that plays everything from funk to big-band charts to bebop.
Given the high level of the material here, and an ensemble that’s tight as can be, it’s no surprise that the CD is a winner. It’s impossible not to enjoy Sanchez’s tribute to Willie Bobo, a medley of three of the legendary percussionist’s songs, highlighted by a Santana-esque solo by Synowiec and vocals by Joey DeLeon. Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” is given a Latin shuffle beat and a tasty guitar solo that serve as a tip of the hat to El Chicano and Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers, great Latin stars who covered the song before Poncho. The title track was written by Sonny Henry, best known for “Evil Ways”, perhaps the penultimate Latin cross-over song of the Sixties.
Click here to listen to “Slowly but Surely”, a John Hick composition recorded by Art Blakey in the mid-60’s. The percussion sets a deep groove and soon it’s the pulsating horns of saxophonist Javier Vergara, trumpeter Blake, and trombonist Francisco Torres that drive the song along. Blake’s solo is particularly memorable.
There is no new ground broken here, but it hardly matters when the band is cooking like they are here. This is one to bring some heat into a cold October evening, a Mojito in hand.