Festival Review: Poncho Sanchez & His Band

January 22, 2013

Poncho SanchezHO[Written by Rajai Denbrook and Rennika Trott] You know what is great about Latin Jazz? Well, good Jazz in general, but Latin Jazz in particular? The complete and utter lack of pretension, nuanced by the flair and soulfulness of Latin American culture.

Poncho Sanchez and his band were no exception to this when they performed with light-hearted, yet indelible skill at the Fairmont Southampton Princess, on their second evening with the Bermuda Festival 2013.

Completely void of ego, and entirely bolstered by their shared love of music, and each other, Poncho Sanchez and his grammy award winning Latin Jazz Band did not give the audience much of a choice but to enjoy the music that they were enjoying making with each other.

The band wasted no time in diving their audience into the proverbial deep-end with a medley of some of Mr. Sanchez’s most familiar tunes, from his “Live In Hollywood” album.

Supported by a soaring wind section, who were only beginning to share with the audience their respective expertise, Mr. Sanchez flexed his seasoned skills and showed, to this reviewers surprise, what can really be done with three tumbadoras (conga drums), inspiring many yelps of “ow!” throughout the various numbers.

Without missing a beat, the band slid into their rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High”, doing complete justice to the classy, enduring classic, whilst showing off their musical range.

Saxophonist Rob Hardt melted the walls, and a few faces, with his solo, but accolades must be given to Bassist Rene Camacho, whose playing caused even his bandmates to bow their heads and whistle out of respect for the master.

Next up was a rattling solo from drummer Angel Rodriguez on the timbales: two snares and a few cymbals have rarely sounded so intricate and engaging, especially when supported by the tight, crisp harmonies of a wind section, bringing the song to an easy and light finish.

After a bit of light-hearted golf related banter with the audience from Trombonist Francisco Torres, the band launched into “Slowly But Surely” from Mr. Sanchez’s “Psychadelic Blues” album, with a lofty and commanding start from the wind section, making way for a piano solo, played with impressive ease by Andham Langham.

As if his fingers were fine working solo, Mr. Langham held the audience with every easy skip across the keys, his sense of play never impeding the obvious extent of his love and knowledge of the form. Francisco Torres also revealed that he’s much more than a funny man with an equally as impressive, fun, and masterful solo on his Trombone.

The night also received its injection of salsa. Showing the full extent of their capacities for fun, but most importantly, playing outstanding music, the band served up blaring trumpet solos from Ron Blake, another tight, tripping bass line from Mr. Camacho, solid percussion from Joey Deleon, and the unexpected surprise of a jazz flute from Mr. Hardt, inspiring ample dancing in the aisles.

Rounding off the programme was a venture into their Soul repertoire, bringing it all the way home with a solid cover of the soul classic “Raise Your Hand”, with Sanchez on lead vocals, and a wonderful cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” for an encore.

As Mr. Sanchez put it during a break in the performance, “we like the camaraderie and the interaction”, and he and his comrades certainly lived up to this philosophy, as their soulful, skilled, and easy playing set a fine tone as the opening act of this year’s Bermuda Festival.

- Rajai Denbrook and Rennika Trott

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Category: All, Entertainment, Music

Comments (13)

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  1. Reasonable says:

    I totally agree with the review….one of the most mesmerizing shows I have ever seen……..HOWEVER , 1 hour and 15 minutes?? Are you kidding me?? The programme said that there would be a 20 minute intermission, and I know I was not the only one who sat there and looked at their watch when they said ” and now for our final number”. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, but it took me longer to get dressed and drive there than the length of the show. I would have been prepared to pay more to get more…..but, at $70.00 a ticket, I felt slightly cheated.

  2. Hear me out... says:

    @Reasonable – I agree. I thought the show was fantastic and I was eagerly awaiting the 2nd half when Poncho stated that the final number was next. I felt ripped off. Who knows perhaps the Bermuda Festival couldn’t negotiate a better deal or that the performers were really very expensive…both maybe?

    • Bermiegirl says:

      Good to know I’m not the only one who felt ripped off. Loved the music though!

  3. Overseas Concert Goer says:

    I attended the performance on Saturday night and to be quite honest, I would have never paid the $70.00. Luckily I won the tickets through the company that I work for.

    As an overseas concert goer, you could have seen him at an overseas venue, like Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, paid about $40.00 for the show, served drinks in a club like setting and he would have performed for at least 2 hours….

    Attending concerts in Bermuda are a waste of money. Do your research online and if you enjoy music, then attend a concert overseas and get your money’s worth!!

  4. jane says:

    Lovely music but we also thought that it was the end of the first half not the end of the concert – rip off springs to mind certainly -did the organisers expect this? Is there any explanation from them?

  5. Good afternoon,

    I am a Bermudian musician who respectfully disagrees with Overseas Concert Goer. There have been a number of concerts that I have performed in locally featuring world class entertainment by both local and overseas artists that were certainly excellent value for money. For further details on one of the groups that I am referring to, please visit http://giantsteps.vpweb.com/

    I am a member of the Giant Steps Band, and we will be travelling in December this year to Havana, to participate in the Cuba Jazz Festival.

    I do not claim to represent Bermuda Festival in any capacity, but I was previously featured in Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra when they appeared in the Bermuda Festival in 2010.

    I would certainly like to encourage as many Music lovers as possible to support Live Music and entertainment in Bermuda.

    Thank You.

    Graham Maule.

    Trombonist, Giant Steps Band.

  6. By the way, I was not at the concert on Saturday evening, so I will be the first to admit that I am not in any position to make a comment on the length of the concert or the comments regarding value for money.

  7. Overseas Concert Goer says:

    @Graham,I have been attending concerts both local and overseas longer than you have been alive.

    Although I respect your opinion, I must say that I find the overseas concerts more enjoyable, as you are able to see a variety of artists at the same venue.
    I am referring to the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, concerts in Switzerland, the Hampton Beer & Jazz Festival in the UK, the Montreal Jazz Festival and the lists goes on, not excluding the one man concerts throughout the US.

    My observation of the Poncho Sanchez Saturday night concert was one of a huge disappointment, even though Poncho’s music was exquisite.

    The Bermudian audience leaves much to be desired and I felt that he picked up on that vibe and decided to end his concert earlier than usual.

    I have noticed that if the audience is stiff and slightly unresponsive, the artists will/can end their concerts prematurely.

  8. @Overseas Concert Goer:

    I believe that local entertainment has been suffering from an inferiority complex precisely because of certain attitudes in our community, where people attempt to portray local musicians as inferior, or second rate. I disagree.

    If you have been attending concerts for longer than 43 years, then you are entitled to your opinion, and I will respectfully agree to disagree.

    Did you ever see Kenny Iris perform? He was a Bermudian trombonist who was offered a contract to perform in the Duke Ellington orchestra. His nephew performed at the Deep Bay Festival on Sunday. I enjoyed his performance immensely, as did the entire audience.

    There are numerous other Bermudian musicians who have reached extremely high levels, locally and internationally. The Giant Steps drummer, Mr. Clarence “Tootsie” Bean, has travelled the World playing the drums, and he probably started playing the drums before you were born. He was also the drummer for Lance Hayward for years.

    I look forward to the day when the Bermudian public can wholeheartedly support local musicians and appreciate the level of talent that we possess here in Bermuda.

  9. Overseas Concert Goer says:

    I used to support local artists on a regular basis, but I really grew weary of listening to the same music month after month, year after year.
    In other words, a lot of them grew lazy and predictable.

    I would prefer to travel to a destination, have a vacation and enjoy a variety of artists perform in a venue more suited acoustically to their music.

    And I have seen Tootsie Bean perform at the Regattabar (Boston) with the late Ruth Brown & friends and he was awesome!
    But then again, just porves my point that he left Bermuda and made a name for himself and is a professional!

    It is my choice to spend my hard earned money the way I see fit and enjoy world class artists in an overseas setting, who are professionals in every sense of the word.

  10. Graham Maule says:

    @Overseas Concert Goer:

    I agree that you are free to spend your money however you see fit.

    By extension, does this mean that you will happily support any local musicians as long as they are performing internationally, outside of Bermuda, when you can take a vacation, but you will not support them when they perform locally?

    If this is the case, then I would certainly recommend that you consider supporting the Cuba Jazz Festival in December this year. As I stated, Giant Steps Band will be performing there, and in my opinion, we are professionals in every sense of the word.

    The fundraising efforts that we are making locally are supporting this tour, and I believe that every performance that we have given has introduced variety and a definite move away from playing the same material time after time.

    Thank you.

  11. Graham Maule says:

    Here is one part of the reason why I call Bermudian entertainers World Class.

    I would never have been capable of performing in a Grammy award winning orchestra without the inspiration and motivation that I have received here in Bermuda from a number of top notch artists.