Arturo Sandoval was born on November 6, 1949. He is a Cuban jazz trumpeter, a composer and a pianist. His birthplace is recorded as Artemisa, Cuba.
At the age of 13, Arturo started exercising his passion for music with a village band. After experimenting and playing a variety of instruments, he fell deeply in love with the trumpet. In 1964, Arturo started a 3-year study of serious classical trumpet studies and enrolled at the Cuban National School of Arts.
By the time he was 16 years old, Arturo had worked hard, showed his musical instrument prowess and earned a well-deserved place in Cuba’s all-star national band. The 3 years saw Arturo become totally taken by jazz, and Dizzy Gillespie served as his idol.
The Military Era
By the year 1971, Arturo Sandoval was drafted in the Cuban military. Fortunately for him, he was still very able to play with the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, plus having the time for his daily practice routine.
While still in Cuba, Arturo was heavily influenced by 3 jazz legends:
- Clifford Brown
- Dizzy Gillespie
- Charlie Parker
He was fortunate enough to have met his idol, Dizzy Gillespie, back in 1977. After their meet-up, Gillespie quickly become Arturo’s mentor as well as a performing colleague, sharing a stage with Arturo in various concerts in Europe and Cuba. Later on, Gillespie shared a stage with Arturo in the United Nations Orchestra.
The Cuban Era
While still in Cuba, Arturo Sandoval cofounded the Irakere band with two men, Paquito D’Rivera and Chucho Valdes. Their band was an instant hit, and within a short period, they become a worldwide phenomenon.
The band’s appearance during the 1978 Newport Jazz Festival introduced them to a hungry American audience that loved their music, earning them a recording deal with Columbia Records. By 1981, when he was still exploring his musical possibilities, Sandoval left the band to form his own.
With his new band, he continued to tour the world playing his unique fusion of jazz and Afro-Cuban music. In addition to playing Afro-Cuban jazz, Arturo was fortunate enough to perform classical music with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London as well as perform at the Leningrad Symphony in what was the Soviet Union back then.
Politics, Music and Gillespie
Unfortunately, due to the American political stance (boycott) regarding Cuba, the country was isolated from American musicians for almost two decades when Dizzy paid a visit. Gillespie was interested in hearing the black neighborhood music where a popular rumba style (Guaguanco) is played.
Back then (1977), Arturo Sandoval drove Dizzy around Havanna´s black neighborhood :
"I knew a bunch of his lines, his phrasing and things," Sandoval says. "He was laughing and laughing because he was so surprised. He saw me as his driver, the guy who was showing him the city — and not only was I a musician, I was a trumpet player. I'd never told him in the whole day we spent together."
It was the start of a friendship that lasted until Gillespie's death in 1993. Sandoval says Gillespie was instrumental in helping him and his family defect to the U.S. (He became an American citizen in 1999.)
"I always considered that a gift from God — to be able to meet and become a close friend of your hero," Sandoval says. "He had such a great time every time he got an opportunity to play — to perform for people, or talk about music with you, and sit down at the piano and try to put some chords and things together. He enjoyed every second of it."
Sandoval's latest album, Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You), pays tribute to Gillespie as a mentor and friend.
Defect to the United States
In 1990, while on a tour of Spain with Gillespie, Arturo Sandoval saw a window of opportunity and defected to the United States of America. He lived in America as a foreigner until 1999, when he became a naturalized citizen.
In the year 2000, Arturo Sandoval’s life was the subject of the TV film, For Love or Country. Andy Garcia was the lead role and played Arturo Sandoval. His official residence as of today is Calabasas, California. He has become such a huge jazz player trumpeter, winning 9 Grammy Awards, and has been nominated a record 17 times.
Arturo has also received 6 Billboard Awards and 1 Emmy Award.
In 2001, Arturo was featured in Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band Album, Swingin’ for the Fences. He performed solos in “Sing, Sang, Sung” as well as “Mueva los Huesos,” which translates to ‘shake your bones’, a song that let him experiment more with Afro-Cuban jazz tunes.
During the 2nd Annual Independent Music Awards, Arturo Sandoval was featured as a judge (the award ceremony is held in support of independent artists’ careers).
On October 12, 2001, Arturo performed at a White House reception where he celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. The function was held in the East Room.
His raw talent saw Sandoval associate with numerous musicians, but the relationship that he treasures most is with Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy was a longtime and very prominent Afro-Cuban musician, and to Sandoval, he was his “spiritual father.”
When these two great trumpet players met and shared a stage back in 1977, Dizzy was, by then, playing impromptu gigs together with Stan Getz in the Caribbean, and their meeting saw them form a friendship and musical relationship that enabled them to perform and tour numerous parts of the world together.
This is the year when Arturo Sandoval opened up a jazz venue on Miami Beach. The venue is known as the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club. Ever since the club was inaugurated, top headline acts as well as local talent have all graced the stage.
The club is open 6 nights a week, where they play live music, and some of the greatest past acts include the likes of Danilo Perez, Roberta Flack, Joshua Redman, The Bad Plus, Michael Lington, Omar Sosa and Moe Goldstein.
Unfortunately, the club closed down in the year 2008, but by then, Arturo Sandoval played monthly in it.
The Year 2013
On August 8, 2013, the current President of the United States of America, Barrack Obama, announced that he would bestow a Presidential Medal of Freedom on Arturo Sandoval.
Arturo Sandoval currently enjoys an extremely successful recording career which goes beyond mainstream jazz. His prowess in the music industry has seen him record with great jazz maestros, such as Kenny G., Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Estafan, Paul Anka and Dave Grusin.
He has shared concert stages with music heavy weights, such as Celine Dion, Herbie Hancock, Woody Herman, Woody Shaw, Justin Timberlake with Alicia Keys and Tito Puente.
In January of 1995, Arturo Sandoval did a splendid performance during the Super Bowl XXIX halftime show where he partnered with Tony Bennett, Patti LaBelle and the Miami Sound Machine. They partnered on a program known as “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye,” where they did their bit to promote the upcoming Disney theme park attraction.
In 1997, he was pleased and honored to perform with Celine Dion during the 69th Academy Awards where they performed the song “I Finally Found Someone.”