The musical, magical energy of Hollywood and Highland’s popular, free “Wine and Jazz” event – held every Tuesday in the outdoor mall’s courtyard — will be immortalized on record tomorrow evening, as Latin Jazz legend Poncho Sanchez not only takes the stage for one of his thrilling live performances, but records it for an upcoming record. Exclusive details below.
We spoke with Sanchez by phone about the evening, and it sounds like he has an unforgettable show planned, with music spanning his entire career and some surprises too. The conga master (conquero) has been a percussionist for almost 40 years, and his repertoire includes traditional Jazz standards, Salsa, some Blues and lively “Latin Jazz,” the latter a genre which Sanchez himself has helped create and shape. Interpreting jazz standards is in fact, the basis of Latin Jazz. Sanchez explains, “we arrange them with a a mambo or cha-cha-cha pattern, adding a vamp or riff repetition…”
Tomorrow, expect a medley of Sanchez’s Latin jazz classics (“Mi Negra,” “Baila-Baila,” “Bien Sabroso”), Salsa dance numbers, (“Son Son Charari”), Jazz standards, Blues tunes (guest vocalist George Fernandez will join) and more. “We’re going to mix it up,” says Sanchez. “I’ve had a few live albums, but I’m revisiting older numbers that I’ve never before recorded live.”
While Sanchez’s performances often feel spontaneous and jam-like, clearly, the band leader tends to have a very structured set-list going into his multi-faceted shows. For the Hollywood set, his goal is to “express my influences and express the mix of LA itself.”
Sanchez was born in Texas but grew up right here in Los Angeles (Norwalk). The 60-year old currently lives in Whittier Hills with his wife of 40 years. He has two grown sons, neither of which followed in papa’s footsteps (one is a scientist, the other in the medical field). Though Sanchez doesn’t listen to music of today too often, he is fan of different genres, albeit more old school: R&B, Gospel, standards.
“I grew up with all of that here in LA,” he says, adding that his H&H shows represent the diversity of the city and his music. “These shows in Hollywood have it all, and I see it all. Families, young people, old people, some dancing, some relaxing… all colors, all ages, all styles.”
Though best known for rhythmic percussion expertise, Sanchez sings during much of sets. His vocals are as soulful and potent as his playing (James Brown was an influence in his early years). But his biggest musical inspirations ultimately became his musical peers. Cal Tjader, Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria, Latin and jazz music legends, were all men Sanchez admired, watched and learned from first as a fan in the audience and ultimately as a member of each’s ensemble.
Today, Sanchez is called Latin Jazz’s “keeper of the flame” (also the name of a documentary about him), and with constant touring around the world, fans from all walks of life, and Grammy awards (“Sanchez Live From Hollywood” sounds like future Grammy material to us!), looks it will continue to burn for years to come.
Hollywood & Highland and KJAZZ 88.1 FM’s 9th Annual “Wine & Jazz” concert is free to the public. Seating is first come, first serve. Two glasses of wine (and an appetizer) will be available with a $10 donation to Project Angel Food.
Remaining Summer Schedule:
July 31: Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band
August 7: The New Jump Blues featuring
Danielle Withers & Antonio Fargas
August 14: Western Standard Time
August 21: The Luis Conte Ensemble
August 28: Hot 8 Brass Band
More info. HERE.