One of the most versatile trumpet players in music history, Sandoval plays classical trumpet solos by Hummel with equal technical brilliance as his high-flying trumpet on Afro-Cuban and bop jazz tunes. Sandoval finds even this range restrictive - he also plays piano, flugelhorn, and sings/scats.

Arturo Sandoval was born in Artemisa, Cuba, a small town outside of Havana, on November 6, 1949. He started playing trumpet at the age of 9, was studying classical music by age 12, and at 15 he enrolled at the Cuban National School of the Arts.

In 1971 Sandoval joined a band called the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna. By 1973, the Orquesta had developed into Irakere: an Afro-Cuban outfit that mixed latin jazz with fusion, bop, swing, and classical elements. Irakere was founded by Arturo and such legends as pianist Chucho Valdes and saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, and also has the distinction of being the first act from Cuba signed to an American label since Castro came to power. While playing for Irakere, Sandoval met and began playing with one of his idols, bop legend Dizzy Gillespie. Irakere won a Grammy in 1980, and in 1981 Sandoval left the group to form his own band.

Sandoval recorded 5 albums over the next 8 years and would occasionally play at international jazz festivals and perform with symphonies as Castro's government would permit. Though he despised Castro's government and wanted badly to defect, he waited until his whole family could leave Cuba. In July 1990, Castro finally allowed him to take his family along on a European tour, and Sandoval defected at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

Sandoval has seen much success in his solo career since defecting. His first album after moving to the United States was 1991's appropriately titled Flight to Freedom, which demonstrated his versatility to a wider audience and was well-received by critics. His albums I Remember Clifford (1992), Danzon (1993), Swingin' (1996), and Hot House (1998) also garnered critical acclaim. Sandoval has been nominated for a Grammy 12 times, and won the award on four occasions.

Today, Sandoval still tours the better part of the year, performing, conducting clinics, and lecturing worldwide. He also has a full professorship at Florida International University and three scholarships in his name. In 1999 Sandoval finally became a U.S. citizen.

Even if you've never heard of Arturo Sandoval, you've probably heard his music. Sandoval wrote and performed some of the music in the 1994 movie The Mambo Kings, as well as music for the movies Havana and The Perez Family. I even heard his song "Funky Cha-Cha" used recently in a commercial for a movie. Sandoval's story of escaping Cuba was told in the HBO original movie For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, for which Sandoval wrote an Emmy award-winning soundtrack.

Solo Discography

Sources and Related Information
  • All Music Guide