Grammy-winning conguero, salsa singer and bandleader Poncho Sanchez is set to perform a few songs with both the Fullerton Jazz Big Band and the Fullerton Latin Ensemble this coming Thursday at Meng Concert Hall.
Trombonist, composer and music director of Sanchez’ band, Francisco Torres, will also be performing alongside Sanchez during the performance.
Bill Cunliffe, Cal State Fullerton music professor and director of the Fullerton Jazz Big Band, said the event will be split into two portions.
Each half is dedicated to performances from either band.
Sanchez and Torres will collaborate with both acts, beginning with the Fullerton Jazz Big Band.
“The Big Band is going to play four tunes, then he’s going come go out and play one with the Big Band,” said Cunliffe. “Then he’s going to join the Latin band and play some of our tunes and then we’ll play some of his tunes.”
With the Fullerton Latin Ensemble, Cunliffe said the songs that Sanchez will be performing from his repertoire include “A Night In Tunisia,” “Con Sabor Latino” and “Watermelon Man,” which was featured on his live album Latin Soul.
The album earned Sanchez a Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2000.
Cunliffe said that Sanchez will be playing “Cubano Chant” with the Fullerton Jazz Big Band.
Troy Sargent, 18, a trumpet performance major and member of the Fullerton Jazz Big Band, said Cubano Chant is a fun song, and that the band is looking forward to playing it with Sanchez.
“It’s all sounding really good, the Big Band is getting really tight and we’re sounding good,” said Sargent.
Sargent said that preparing for the performance has been hectic, especially since they’ve had to learn a lot of new music in a relatively short period of time after returning from the Reno Jazz Festival.
“It’s a little crazy … we’re preparing a mostly different set for this performance than we did in Reno, so it’s been a lot of music pretty quick,” Sargent said.
Cunliffe said he will be conducting the Fullerton Jazz Big Band but will not be directing the Fullerton Latin Ensemble.
Sanchez will be taking over for that role when the Latin band performs during the second half.
“The Latin band really doesn’t have a conductor, so I will introduce Francisco and Poncho, and they will kick it off,” Cunliffe said.
According to Cunliffe, some of the songs that the Fullerton Latin Ensemble will be playing are songs that the band played recently during their performance at this year’s Reno Jazz Festival.
Cunliffe has worked with Sanchez and played with his band in the past.
He has also written orchestral charts for Sanchez in the events where he performed with a symphony orchestra.
Cunliffe also said the performance will also feature a dedication to musician David Torres, who recently passed away.
In addition to having been a close friend of Cunliffe, Torres was also the music director for Sanchez’s band for more than 20 years.
The dedication will be done by playing one of David’s songs during the performance.
Sargent also said that the Fullerton Jazz Big Band wouldn’t be rehearsing with Sanchez or Torres until the morning of the event, which he said is normal for guest performances.
“These things tend to happen relatively quickly. They’ll have a three-hour rehearsal the day of the gig … and that will be it,” Cunliffe said. “They (the bands) gotta pick it up fast … but that’s how the music business works. Sometimes you spend months on something, sometimes you spend 10 minutes on it.”
Sanchez and Torres are also set to do clinics on the day of the performance.
The clinics will be offered to those who will be performing with them.
“They just talk about what they do and what they want to tell us about something that they can teach us, and then we can ask them any questions,” Sargent said.
Cunliffe said that the opportunity his students are given to do these kinds of performances is one of the perks of being a jazz musician at CSUF.
“At Cal State Fullerton, the jazz students get to work with the very best jazz musicians in the world, face to face … that’s what we really want to offer our students, is real time, hanging out, getting to know the very best people in the music business,” Cunliffe said.