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Poncho Sanchez - Poncho at Montreux Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Poncho Sanchez

Poncho at Montreux
format: DualDisc
label: Concord/Silverline
release year: 2004
performance: 8.5
sound 9
reviewed by: Jerry Del Colliano

Image Ask anyone who is into 5.1 surround sound what they are passionate about and they will rant, rave and even drool about the audio experience. Ask a record producer or mixing engineer and they talk about having their box of crayons upgraded from the little 16 pack to the big 64 box with the sharpener in the back. Everyone loves music in surround. The problem arises when you start building your collection and realize there simply isn’t that much music mixed for surround, even to this day. Early adopters of music in surround latched onto the critically acclaimed “Buena Vista Social Club” DVD-Audio disc, but since then, there simply hasn’t been much that adds to that genre. That is until now.

Poncho at Montreux is a live recording from the famed Montreux Jazz Festival in July 2003. With a willing audience and stellar recording techniques, this record is a glowing endorsement of polyphonic Latin music. Poncho Sanchez leads the vast group playing congas and percussion, while also handling most of the lead vocals. The flavor of record is distinctly Latin and rich in texture, style and enthusiasm. The depth of the band and the acoustical nature of most of the instruments is an excellent mix of ingredients for a tasty audio dish and when this disc hits your player, you will not be disappointed.

As a DualDisc, there is a CD layer on one side and a DVD layer on the other. On almost every DualDisc I have seen, the DVD layer is where the high-resolution audio is and this is the side I recommend you play. The resolution of the tracks was not disclosed, but I would guess the 5.1 mix was a 24-bit 96 kHz reproduction. Unlike some more mainstream DualDisc releases, there aren’t a lot of supplemental materials provided, like music videos or photo galleries. This is a record about Latin jazz and that is it.

Musically, this record is nothing but fun. The rhythm is king and it never stops. The layering of the multiple horns, bass, percussion and vocals make for a deep sound field. A Sanchez original, “El Shing-A-Ling,” is one of the more mellow tracks on the record, but boasts a solid groove and catchy, syncopated beats that involve the piano, percussion, horns and bass. “Watermelon Man,” a Herbie Hancock tune, really emphasizes the piano and percussion, which comes across amazingly well in the surround mix.

The killer track on the record is the familiar James Brown track “Out Of Sight,” which the band really shreds on. Bluesy in presentation, the use of what sounds to be a Hammond organ gives the surround track of this record even more depth of audio flavor. The Scott Martin sax solo goes off in the third verse of the song, as the band applies its own will on it. The result is a free for all jam that cannot be denied.

The sound of this record is spectacular. It has everything I like about a modern digital recording. It sounds liquid, live and deep. It is dynamic and powerful, yet with enough resolution to capture the subtle details of the percussion, horns and pianos when needed.

The surround mix is surprisingly active, considering this is a live recording from a festival. The depth of the band is impressive, but the way they are all mixed into the overall surround sound field is even more so when compared with all of the other surround sound records I have heard to date.

If you own a 5.1 music playback or home theater system and even think you might be remotely interested in this kind of groovy Latin jazz – Poncho at Montreux is worth hunting down. I am duly impressed with this record.

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