Chucho Valdes and Poncho Sanchez - Walt Disney Concert Hall - 2/16/11
Better than...listening to Mark Sanchez play the congas.
Last night before a sedate but nearly sold out crowd at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Poncho Sanchez and Chucho Valdes led their own bands through hour long sets of percussion-driven latin jazz. The conguero from Norwalk and the pianist from Cuba kept the energy high but never seemed quite comfortable in the lavish hall.
Sanchez and his band strode on to the stage, dressed in black and ready for a good time. "Are you ready to party?" Sanchez shouted, marking his first appearance at the concert hall. The band opened with a mid-tempo take on the Jerome Kern standard "Yesterdays." After a brief piano and saxophone solo Sanchez hammered his congas, drawing applause mid-solo. Following that tune the band launched into a medley of Willie Bobo tunes that had Sanchez crooning before rolling through "Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fries."
The eight piece band was joined by trumpeter Terence Blanchard as they made their way through a few tunes from their recent collaboration Chano Y Dizzy. Blanchard's fiery trumpet soared over Sanchez's spirited conga on a medley of Dizzy Gillespie tunes before they settled down for a slow-burn through "Con Alma" featuring a fine piano solo from pianist Andrew Langham.
The band closed with a little salsa on "Arinanara," forcing many of the stone-faced patrons to move in their seats just a little. To their credit the audience sprung to life with a standing ovation when the band eventually finished, as if they had been restlessly suppressing their urges throughout the set.
Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes took over the second half. His seven piece band featured three percussionists who churned and burned throughout the set. The band opened with bassist Lazaro Rivero Alarcon vamping on his electric axe before Valdes jumped in with a two-fisted solo over the two-chord vamp. The tune closed with percussionist Dreiser Durruthy Bambole playing and chanting, displaying his multi-tasking skills as the horn players receded into the darkened corner of the stage.
Christina Limson O'Connell Chucho's piano is twenty-five feet long.