BACK IN LAS VEGAS
Poncho Sanchez has been around long enough to know that it's been too long since he played Las Vegas.
The Grammy-winning conga drummer brings his Latin jazz band to The Smith Center's Cabaret Jazz tonight and Saturday - and he's "excited and glad to know that finally, in Las Vegas, there's a place where jazz and Latin jazz bands can play."
Sanchez, 60, first played the Tropicana in 1975 with vibraphonist Cal Tjader ; with his own band, which he's led for more than 30 years, Sanchez played the now-defunct Blue Note, which later became the now-defunct Harmon Theater.
Sanchez also remembers playing an outdoor jazz festival "about 10 years ago," he says. "We're excited to go back to Las Vegas. We don't play there as much as we should."
Sanchez's eight-member band (plus longtime sound man Larry Sanchez - no relation to his boss) will mix it up as they always do, he says, blending Latin jazz with salsa - and a heaping helping of Latin soul. Think James Brown and Wilson Pickett "with a Latin accent," Sanchez explains.
Local audiences will hear selections from the band's upcoming CD, "Live in Hollywood," and their current "Chano y Dizzy!" - a tribute to the partnership between Chano Pozo (known as "the godfather of conga drummers") and legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who first met in the 1940s and pioneered the fusion now known as Latin jazz.
Sanchez and Co. also will oblige fans with such trademark tunes as "Watermelon Man" and "Besame Mama," songs Sanchez says he still enjoys playing, even after all these years. (Unlike the late Tjader, who cued his bandmates on his biggest hit, "Soul Sauce," with a sardonic, " 'Guys, it's time for the national anthem,' " Sanchez recalls with a chuckle.)
It'll be "salsa and Latin jazz at its finest," Sanchez says of this weekend's Cabaret Jazz performances. "If you come out to see the show, you're guaranteed to have a good time." And so is he.
Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band perform at 7 tonight and at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday in Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, 361 Symphony Park Ave. Tickets ($42-$55) are available by phone at 749-2000 or online at www.thesmithcenter.com.
LITTLE THEATRE BEGINS
SEASON WITH 'SIDE MAN'
The Tony-winning "Side Man" opens a three-weekend run tonight at Las Vegas Little Theatre, kicking off the 35th anniversary season of Southern Nevada's longest-running local, nonprofit theater.
The 1999 Tony winner for best play, Warren Leight's "Side Man" chronicles three decades of the jazz era as experienced by the title character - and recalled by his son, who remembers the tumultuous relationship between his father, a talented but self-absorbed jazz trumpeter, and his alcoholic mother. Leight's musician father, Donald, reportedly served as the inspiration for the play - and its title character.
The production runs through Sept. 30 at Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays; there's an additional matinee at 2 p.m. Sept. 22. Tickets ($24 for adults, $21 for seniors and students) are available by phone at 362-7996 or online at www.LVLT.org.
CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES
OPENS WITH DEBUSSY
The 150th anniversary of composer Claude Debussy's birth inspires the initial concert of a new chamber music series presented by UNLV's Performing Arts Center and Department of Music.
Thursday's "Celebrate Debussy's 150th!" features flutist Jennifer Grim , soprano Linda Lister and pianist Timothy Hoff, all members of the music faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Although he reportedly disliked the term "impressionist music," Debussy (along with Maurice Ravel) helped create the form, conjuring dreamy, ethereal melodies and radical harmonies in such indelible works as "Clair de Lune."
Thursday's concert, which spotlights Debussy's works for smaller ensembles, begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Doc Rando Recital Hall in the Lee & Thomas Beam Music Center at UNLV, 4505 Maryland Parkway. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased by calling 895-2797 or online at pac.unlv.edu.
'ON THE VERGE' INVADE UNLV
The Nevada Conservatory Theatre at UNLV begins its 10th anniversary season tonight with Eric Overmyer's "On the Verge," which opens a two-weekend run in the Black Box Theatre as part of NCT's Alternative Season.
Employing esoteric language and pop culture references from the Victorian Era to the Eisenhower years, "On the Verge: or, The Geography of Yearning" follows a trio of intrepid female explorers who set a course for the unexplored realm of Terra Incognita in the late 19th century - but find themselves traversing a continuum of space, time, history, geography, feminism and fashion, encountering elements of a distant future as they go.
Todd Espeland directs the production, which will be staged at 8 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Black Box Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Parkway. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. Sept. 19-22 and 2 p.m. Sept. 23. For tickets ($15 for adults, $13.50 for those under 18) or additional information, call 895-2787 or go online to pac.unlv.edu.
- Carol Cling