If music were about pictures, percussionist Poncho Sanchez's music would best be described as a kaleidoscopic swirl of some of the hottest colors and brightest lights to emerge from either side of the border. At any given show, on any given record, fragments of Latin jazz, swing, bebop, salsa and other infectious grooves collide and churn in a fiery swirl, with results that are no less than dazzling.
Although born in Laredo, Texas, in 1951 to a large Mexican-American family, Poncho Sanchez grew up in a suburb of L.A., where he was raised on an unusual cross section of sounds that included straightahead jazz, Latin jazz and American soul. By his teen years, his musical consciousness had been solidified by the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. Along the way, he taught himself to play guitar, flute, drums and timbales, but eventually settled on the congas.
Whether it's salsa, straightahead jazz, Latin jazz, or even elements of soul and blues, the mesmerizing array of sounds and colors from Poncho Sanchez's youth have telegraphed across the decades and continue to inform his creative sensibilities to this day. "There's room for a lot of different sounds in our music," he says. "I think people have come to know that that's what Poncho Sanchez is all about. We put it all together in a pot, boil it together and come out with a big stew. This isn't some marketing strategy to sell records. These are the sounds I grew up with. So when I play this music, I'm not telling a lie. I'm telling my story. This is the real thing."