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Poncho Sanchez returns to Seattle's Jazz Alley next week

A man with a white beard wearing a hat and sunglasses sits on the front porch of a house with three conga drums next to him.
Jazz Alley
Poncho Sanchez
Conga drummer and bandleader Poncho Sanchez.

The unstoppable conguero and bandleader Poncho Sanchez is back touring with plans for a biographical book and film, plus an upcoming album.

Mentored by vibraphonist Cal Tjader, Sanchez started his own band in 1980. After more than 30 years of traveling and performing, he's considering a slightly slower pace going forward.

Like many touring artists impacted by the COVID pandemic, Sanchez appreciates being able to work again. Some priorities have shifted, though, and he is even more grateful for his 50-year marriage to his wife Stella, and their children and grandchildren.

Sanchez has been happily bringing his band to Seattle since 1976. He loves the city and the people. Over the past several years, the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band has made two annual appearances at Jazz Alley; one in the spring or summer and one during the week of New Years Eve. Last year, those winter shows were accompanied by snow and ice.

Sanchez turns 71 this year, and while he's still in good physical condition, he's not interested in dealing with winter weather. So look for Sanchez and the band in Seattle when the sun is shining.

Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band

At their Jazz Alley shows next week, you'll likely hear some new songs that will appear on the upcoming recording, which is still in progress, and scheduled to be available by the end of this year.

"Ponchando" or "punching" is a song title that plays on the bandleader's name. The band's trumpeter, Ron Blake, will contribute some original material, as will trombonist and music director Francisco Torres, who can write great music at the drop of a hat. Sanchez's own compositions take a little longer, but are worth the wait. "I don't brag that I'm a great songwriter," he said in an interview with KNKX. "Under pressure, I do pretty good."

After resisting the suggestion for years, Sanchez agreed to collaborate on book about his life and music. He says a trusted friend who is a writer has about seven chapters ready, and they hope to have the biography completed in 2023. Sanchez is excited, and said, "He's been cleaning up my stories beautifully. This guy writes the way I play!" It seems like a good fit.

Another longtime friend has proposed making a documentary film about Sanchez, based on the book.

In the future, Sanchez hopes to record another style of music that he grew up with: soul.

"Otis Redding, Jerry Butler, The Temptations, the Four Tops—I grew up listening to soul as much as I listened to jazz," said Sanchez. "I'd love to do a record. I have all the collections, the albums, the CDs and videos, just like I have the jazz collections."

Find more information and tickets for the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band shows at Jazz Alley here. Listen for selections from Poncho Sanchez this week on Jazz Caliente.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.

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Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.