Conga king Poncho Sanchez's sequel to his Grammy Award-winning Latin Soul presents further percussive explorations in his patented Latin funk-and-soul vein. Sanchez, a Texas native, embraces the hybrid character of U.S. Latin music, combining jazz and popular strains with Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican influences. Self-taught on conga, Sanchez broke into the California Latin music scene with Cal Tjader in 1975, playing with the vibraphone innovator until his 1982 death. Soul Of The Conga presents the longstanding Sanchez ensemble, augmented by the sizzling, soulful Hammond B-3 organ of guest Joey DeFrancesco, the Cuban savor of the four Ortiz Brothers (aka Son Mayor), and jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard (with a smoky take on "Stella By Starlight"). Other notable numbers include Sanchez's smoldering vocals on the romantic "Cosas Del Alma," a changüi-flavored "Fania Fungue," and four tracks marked by the inimitable DeFrancesco organ groove: "Moon Pie" (a nod to the nonpareil saxophone soul of late great Eddie Harris), "Haitian Lady" (echoing John Coltrane's "Impressions," with some beautiful muted trumpet), the trombone-driven "Virtue," and an infectious boogaloo, "Bodacious Q." - Michael Stone
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