Poncho Sanchez’s Summer Visit to Seattle’s Jazz Alley


Poncho Sanchez will be performing at Seattle’s Dimitrious’ Jazz Alley, although he told me in an exclusive conversation with Latino Music Café, “I feel Iike I’m going on vacation”.

After spending the weekend in Lima, Peru, Poncho Sanchez is glad to be back home. Barely having a chance to unpack, Poncho needs to gather his things to go to his 2nd home, since Seattle has become that to the Latin Jazz Grammy Award winner percussionist.

Poncho’s Latest Latin Jazz Album and Changes in his Band

“Live in Hollywood” was the most recent recording launched by Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz band. The album is a “live” recording of Poncho’s hits, with a couple of new arrangements. However, the band in itself has undergone a metamorphosis.

Poncho Sanchez will visit the Jazz Alley to present "Live in Hollywood"
Poncho Sanchez latest Latin Jazz album “Live in Hollywood”.

Almost all with the exception of trombonist and musical director Francisco Torres and trumpet player Ron Blake are gone! Yes, that includes bassist Tony Banda, who was 30 years with the band, and pianist David Torres, longtime musical director who stayed for 22 years, and passed away shortly after leaving the band. “Live in Hollywood” was the 1st recording with the new Poncho Sanchez band.

I asked Poncho if the changes had altered the sound of his Latin jazz band or its ability to reach deep into his songbook as they may just be learning the band’s songs. Poncho’s response was that although the band had been with pretty much the same musicians for the last 10 years and came to be like brothers, getting to know what each other was going to do on stage, the time came to make some changes.

The new band members bring a new energy and deeper versatility regarding the complexity of the music they can play. Here is an audio clip of Poncho explaining the effect of the changes in the band:


Next Latin Jazz Album: a Tribute to Coltrane

With the new membership in his Latin jazz band and its capability of playing more complex scores, Poncho Sanchez is after more ambitious projects. He is starting to put together the material for his next album, which will be a tribute to John Coltrane.

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz band wiht James Carter
Poncho Sanchez playing the new Tribute to John Coltrane tunes with James Carter at the Playboy Jazz Fest.

As Poncho describes it, “John Coltrane’s music is very complex. We already have 6 or 7 arrangements of John Coltrane’s tunes done in the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz style, with our flavor to it. We’ve already done concerts like at the Playboy Jazz Festival and the Hollywood Bowl with a guest at saxophone; James Carter was our guest in these concerts. I plan on asking Ravi Coltrane if he wants to do the record with us, as well as James Carter, and it will be a Tribute to John Coltrane, olé”.

Now this sounds like another interesting theme project! Perhaps even more interesting than his “Chano y Dizzy” Latin Jazz album was with guest Terence Blanchard on trumpet. I’m salivating at the prospects of this new album. This Poncho Sanchez tribute to Coltrane will start going to the recording studio late this year and then with an expected release into the middle of next year.

Poncho’s Long History with Seattle’s Jazz Alley

Poncho’s relationship with Seattle and the Jazz Alley go back to the mid-1970’s, before the Jazz Alley was established and Poncho didn’t have his own band yet. Poncho goes back to his early musical career memories to tell the story of his relationship with Seattle and John Dimitriou’s jazz club even before the Jazz Alley!

A young Poncho Sanchez as part of Cal Tjader's Latin jazz band
A young Poncho Sanchez as part of Cal Tjader’s Latin jazz band

Wow, I learned a little bit of Seattle musical history listening to Poncho’s story as he describes how he played at the Pioneer Banque jazz club and the old Jazz Alley in the U-district as part of Cal Tjader’s band, and then with his own Latin Jazz band starting at the U-district locale after Tjader passed away. Here is an audio clip of that part of the conversation:


Poncho Sanchez Jazz Alley Shows

As is customary of the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz band, he will mix some of his fan favorite classics with some of the new material. As Poncho said, “I cannot do one of my shows and not play some of the old favorite tunes like “Watermelon Man”, “Coco Mai Mai”, “Bésame Mamá” and others. We love those tunes and play them every night.”

“But I also like to bring some brand new fresh material. So we’ll also play some tunes from the ‘Tribute to Coltrane’ material”. The folks there will have a good time because that’s what I tell people, ‘I came to have a good time'”!

Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz band will be at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle from July 18th to the 21st. If you’re in the Seattle area, enjoy the shows!

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  1. Linda says

    Great music, disappointed in the amount of time on his last performance at Spaghettinis in CA 7 pm showing 3 songs only an hour took a break and never came back. Like I stated. Music, great… Ponch Sanchez fabulous.

    1. Hector Aviles says

      Hi Linda,
      That’s very uncharacteristic of Poncho. There must have been other circumstances that affected his performance. I’ve seen him several times and everytime he puts on a great show!

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