@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
14 May 2006
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Another scorching Sunday dawned as the final St. Lucia Jazz 2006 event loomed. The thought of the inevitable line of traffic leading to Pigeon Island had us on the road ninety minutes before the 2 p.m. start time. The returning traffic was also a concern. In fact the night before push to get home was more reminiscent of London M25 mayhem. Therefore, we decided to park the jeep at the opposite end of the Pigeon Island venue entrance. This would mean a rough ride across a small rock filled stream on the way home, but who cares if the road runs out…. we are in the Caribbean! And with artists such as Poncho Sanchez, Al Green and Seal on the line up… a quick dip in a rocky stream was nothing to fear!
Poncho Sanchez was born on October 30, 1951, Lareda Texas, but was raised in Norwalk, California. Sanchez was exposed to many styles of Afro Cuban music: mambo, cha-cha, son, guarach, rhumba, and salsa. Musicians such as Tito Puente and Charlie Parker also featured highly on his play list.
Originally a guitarist, Sanchez discovered his voice while auditioning for an R&B band that rehearsed in his neighbourhood. He would eventually become the group’s lead vocalist. Sanchez would continue exploration in music by teaching himself flute, drum and timbales before finally reaching the decision to pursue conga playing in high school.
Sanchez received his big break at the age of twenty-three, when vibraphonist Cal Tjader invited him to perform one set with his band. Tjader was impressed and initially hired Sanchez for one week. After further impressive performances and rave reviews, Sanchez soon became a full member of the ensemble.
In 2005,Concord Records celebrated its twenty-five year anniversary. Poncho Sanchez has been an integral part of the labels success. In fact he has had a twenty-three year relationship with the label, and has produced twenty-four recordings to date.
Poncho Sanchez has worked with a diverse range of musicians such as Hugh Masekela, Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Harris, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria and the late Ray Charles to name a few. Sanchez is a highly respected Grammy winning percussionist who continues to perform in many venues and music festivals worldwide.
A singer can tell tales, relay many stories with a song, and his spoken words. A musician will use his instrument to convey these messages. The closer the musician is spiritually to his instrument and the more adept he, or she is, the more powerful the message.
Having such a rich, diverse background, and with a recording career spanning over two decades, there is no wonder Poncho Sanchez has much to say, both vocally and via his congas. His ability to communicate these stories and tales effectively to such a diverse crowd is also no big surprise. Apart from injecting his own blend of funk-edged Latin / jazz into James Brown’s “Out Of Sight”, Sanchez continued to perform his set fusing the Latin / Jazz / Salsa flavours he is renown for.
Though the temperature and atmosphere did not reach fever pitch this time around, patrons still danced freely to the music of Poncho Sanchez and his ten-piece band. Patrons also listened intently to the vivacious tales and dramatic stories unfolding before their very eyes. Sanchez achieved all this without breaking sweat!
Poncho Sanchez - congas & vocals
Report by Robin Francis
Additional information by Carole Clemesha
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.