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El Mejor

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Album Review

A 1992 session by percussionist Poncho Sanchez and his seven-piece band (three horns, two more percussionists, piano, and bass), El Mejor hews closer to the jazz side of the Latin jazz description. Songs like "Sueños," the bossa nova-tinged "El Jamaiquino," and the flute-driven "Angel" are relaxed, even mellow, and despite the three conga and timbales players, pianist and musical director David Torres drives the band throughout, making the overall sound closer to the likes of Cal Tjader than Tito Puente. The focus on slow to mid-tempo tunes, most of them with vocals (by Sanchez, bassist Tony Banda, and bongo player José Papo Rodríguez), gives El Mejor a different feel than more up-tempo, groove-oriented Afro-Cuban jazz albums. In some ways, it's close to the sound repopularized by the Buena Vista Social Club albums about a half decade later; the bolero "Dichoso" is particularly similar. Although El Mejor translates as "The Best," note that this isn't a compilation album.


Born: October 30, 1951 in Laredo, TX

Genre: Latin Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The imaginative rhythms of Poncho Sanchez have made him one of the most influential conga players and percussionists in Afro-Cuban jazz. In addition to recording as a soloist, Sanchez has been featured on albums by the Jazz Crusaders, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Dianne Reeves, Joey DeFrancesco, and Terence Blanchard. Becoming a member of vibraphonist Caj Tjader's Band in 1975, Sanchez remained with the group until Tjader's death on May 5, 1982. By then, he had already...
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El Mejor, Poncho Sanchez
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