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JAZZ REVIEW : Poncho Sanchez Gets Festival Off to a Rousing Start

Delivering a rather brief but still appealing set that blended Latin, swing and bebop, conga drummer Poncho Sanchez headlined Saturday afternoon at MacArthur Park in a free outdoor concert, which was part of LA Jazz ’88. Sponsored by the International Assn. of Jazz Appreciation, the concert drew about 2,000 attentive and, indeed, appreciative fans.

Short on time, apparently due to a scheduling snafu, Sanchez and his band segued quickly from one style to another, rather than staying in one mode and establishing the type of hard-cooking groove for which he has gained nationalrenown.

Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud” and Lester Young’s “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid” were the mainstream jazz items, and both spotlighted trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo, who mixed flash with content on the former, and hit high, ringing tones like a soaring lead player on the latter.

Three salsa tunes provided contrast, though the steaming rhythmic babble with which Sanchez, timbales player Ramon Banda and bongo drummer David Romero underpin each rendition gives even the jazziest number a distinctive Latin color. “Baila Mi Gente” had a gentle sway and featured flutist Kenny Goldberg who, with a breathy sound, hit a series of repeated notes, and then smoothly hurdled some wide intervals like a musical Greg Foster.

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“Baila” closed with a Sanchez solo. Wearing his trademark black Ivy League hat and sunglasses, he leaned back and then forward, first hitting his drums hard with loud, well-spaced slaps, then gravitating to a faster flurry, then quieting his thrusts yet keeping them brisk, so they sounded like urgent whispering.

Also heard were “Queda Te Compai” and “Oye Ritmo,” the latter a showcase for Art Velasco’s thick, energized trombone lines.

Gerald Wilson’s orchestra, reviewed recently, opened the program with a surging set that included “Viva Tirado,” where trumpeter Oscar Brashear played gorgeous, brassy notes, and “Milestones” where trombonists Thurman Green and Garnett Brown told memorable tales.


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