It's Your Life: YOUR GUIDE to People, Places and Things to do. : PONCHO : Sharing the Gospel of Jazz With Latin Accent

When it comes to the short list of artists keeping Latin-jazz alive and evolving, Poncho Sanchez and his able band have been toward the top end for a dozen years.

Sanchez, the respected, Los Angeles-based conguero, has spread the Latin-jazz gospel by touring widely and releasing numerous albums on the Concord Picante label. Last year, Sanchez put out "Para Todos," featuring the funky, chameleonic tenor saxist Eddie Harris on a few tracks, further demonstrating the natural cross-talk between jazz and Latin traditions.

Sanchez and band tend to pump up the spirit of whatever room they're working, with the tight-knit syncopations of salsa and other Latin rhythms. This Sunday, they'll be pumping up Spanish Hills Country Club in a benefit concert for KCLU, the Cal Lutheran-based jazz radio outlet and NPR affiliate.

Yes, jazz has finally hit the airwaves in Ventura County, just in time for the congressional crackdown on public radio funding.

Much of KCLU's programming toggles back and forth between straight-ahead jazz and the slick strains of pop "contemporary" jazz, but one of its special programs is Thursday night's "Jazz Latino," hosted by Raul Rico Jr.

* Spanish Hills Country Club, 999 Crestview Ave. Reception starts at 3 p.m., with sets of music from 4-5 p.m. and 6-7 p.m. Tickets, for music, food and drink, are $75 per person; 493-3900.

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