Poncho Sanchez by Estevan Oriol - Color.jpg

Pancho Sanchez.

Conguero, of internationally renowned Poncho Sanchez, is performing his brand of Latin jazz tomorrow night inside the St. Regis’ Velvet Buck. Poncho and his 8-piece band in town as part of Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ winter cafe series.

Remember the boogaloo era from the late 60s? At a Poncho Sanchez performance, what you’ll hear is a rich sound, textured and full. We’re talking boleros, rumbas, claves, even-eighths, tumbaos, guajiras and 6 cross-beats per each measure of 12/8 time.

For over three decades, Laredo, Texas-born Sanchez has performed a mix of jazz and soul influenced from the sonical soils of Latin and South America. In 1999, Poncho’s Latin Soul won the Grammy for “Best Latin Jazz Album,” and since then, he has been nominated 9 more times. In 2012, he received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

But for Sanchez, it’s all about the music as evidenced by his steadfast commitment to holding aloft the torch lit by guys like Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente and Cal Tjader. In Sanchez’ music, you also hear shades of Beny More, of the Buena Vista Social Club gang, of Herbie Hancock, and John Coltrane.

Coltrane to Sanchez looms large. Ever since hearing Coltrane’s eponymous classic at age 11, Sanchez has returned time and again to the man who made that record as inspiration. “His tone, his approach to music, I was completely transfixed by Coltrane’s playing. It touched my soul, gave me hope that the future was bright and we were all gonna be okay as people.” On Trane’s Delight, his latest record released in September, Sanchez pays tribute with Latin-tinged reimaginings of Coltrane and new pieces composed in his honor.

Poncho’s last Aspen performance was in 2016 but he has been performing here for the past 25 years. “Jim [Horowitz, Founder and CEO of JAS) and I go way back and I always love coming to play Aspen despite my having a hard time breathing when I’m there,” Sanchez said, with a laugh. “One year I asked the crowd when or if they get used to Aspen’s elevation. The reply: when you leave!”

In 2011, Sanchez recorded a tribute album to two other major influences of his: Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo. Pozo and Gillespie helped pioneer the fusion of straight-ahead American jazz with Latin rhythms in the 50s. The material on Trane’s Delight, therefore, is a natural extension for Sanchez to express his admiration and respect toward his musical forefathers.

“But Poncho’s now a peer among his musical heroes,” said Horowitz. “His energy on stage resonates with the people and place of Aspen because of two things his group has an abundance of—groove and soul.” To Horowitz, groove is propulsion and forward movement. While soul is attributed more to a rhythmical feeling difficult to explain, “Jazz itself is very malleable and flexible. In a setting like the United States it’s no wonder there’s been such interesting crossover between jazz, Latin, and soul.”


What: Poncho Sanchez

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.

Where: The Velvet Buck at the St. Regis

Cost: Sold out. More information at jazzaspensnowmass.org

James Rose is on a search for the oldest crow in the county. He can be reached at jamesrose10@gmail.com.