Scott Martin played alto and tenor saxophones and flute. Wonderful phrasing and gorgeous tones characterized his alto work on the beautiful Latin balled Dulce Amor. Watermelon Man, a signature Santamaria tune penned by jazz great Herbie Hancock, featured trombonist Francisco Torres and had the crowd moving in their seats. The set ended with Happy Now, allowing David Torres and Poncho to move back into the spotlight. Delivering a powerful set of music, Poncho paid tribute to the man he named his first son after.
Before the second set began, Poncho told us his band would be recording a new CD with Ray Charles in mid-March. They started the set with a funky tune written by Scott Martin for the new recording. Later on in the set they played a Ray Charles classic, One Mint Julep, which was a great avenue for Serafin Aguilar to showcase his virtuosity on the trumpet. The funk tunes were fun and were interspersed with Latin numbers and jazz standards to form an eclectic stew of soul music, punctuated by heavy rhythms. David Torres’ arrangements for the standards really set them on fire. Jerome Kern’s Yesterdays was a highlight of the evening, largely because of the fantastic work of George Ortiz on timbales. A memorable version of the balled You Don’t Know What Love Is showcased trombonist Francisco Torres’ best work of the evening. Alternatively, the Latin numbers gave us a taste of Sal Vasquez’ skills on tres, a Cuban guitar. A great example was the last tune of the evening, Batiri Cha Cha by Tito Rodriguez. Despite the fact the Pabst Theatre is not the ideal setting for dancing, people could not resist this number.
Overall, the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band has much to offer. The fact they traverse so many different styles of music means they play something for everyone. The rapport of the musicians is incredible, especially considering three key, longstanding members recently left the group. If variety is the spice of life, Poncho’s band was certainly flavorful. And just like any good recipe, the different flavors complemented each other well to make for a tantalizing, satisfying musical dish.