Grammy Award-winning Latin percussionist Poncho Sanchez performs May 31

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldMay 22, 2014 

Latin percussionist Poncho Sanchez


Grammy Award-winning Latin percussionist Poncho Sanchez will make his first visit to Southeastern Washington on May 31 when he performs at the Waterbrook Winery near Walla Walla.

"I'm really looking forward to visiting your beautiful area," Sanchez told the Herald in a phone interview.

Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets cost $40, with lawn seating using either blankets or sand chairs. Viewing also is available on the winery's patio, where food and wine are sold. The concert is open to all ages, and kids ages 12 and younger are free.

Sanchez caught his first whiff of music and dance at age 4 and never stopped listening, he said.

"I was exposed to Cuban music at that young age, like the mambo, and I loved it," he said. "I'm the baby in my family (six sisters and four brothers) and I would always watch them dance to the music. I loved the rhythm."

Born in Texas in 1951, Sanchez grew up in Whittier, Calif., where he was exposed to an unusual cross-section of sounds, from straight-ahead jazz, Latin jazz and American soul, he said.

By the time he was a teenager, he'd taught himself to play guitar, flute and conga and timbale drums. But it was the conga drums he favored. Latin Soul won the Grammy in 2002 for best Latin jazz album.

Sanchez said his musical soul stayed focused on the likes of Cal Tjader, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wilson Pickett and James Brown, and it paid off because in 1975, at 24, he landed a job in Cal Tjader's band.

"I remember my brothers and sisters loved dancing to Cal's music when I was a kid, and when they found out I was going to be a part of his band, they were so excited their little brother was playing with such a cool guy," Sanchez said with a laugh. "I learned so much just from playing with Cal. And it was a privilege to play with him."

Sanchez stayed with Tjader's band until the bandleader's death in 1982.

"I have always felt that Latin jazz is the world's greatest music," Sanchez said. "It has sophisticated melody and harmony of jazz and the energy of Latin music."

The music he plays was born in New York City when Chano Pozo met Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s, he said.

"They created something that didn't exist before in this country," Sanchez said. "And I'm very proud to take this music all over the world."

The Waterbrook Winery is off Highway 12 near Walla Walla. For more information, call 509-522-1262 or go to

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;; Twitter: @dorioneal

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