Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval began studying
classical trumpet when he was 12 years old. But he soon discovered jazz,
developing into one of the finest players in both genres.
In the 1970s, he was a member of Irakere, a band led by
pianist Chucho Valdez that melded Afro-Cuban, Latin and rock influences
into a distinctive sound and included fellow future jazz greats Paquito
D'Rivera and Jose Luis Cortes. He played with Dizzy Gillespie in the
United Nations Orchestra and formed his own band in1981, occasionally
being allowed out of the country by the Castro regime to perform at
international jazz festivals and with symphony orchestras.
In 1990, he defected at the American Embassy in Rome
after getting his wife and son out of Cuba, and became a United States
citizen in 1999. He has a long string of recordings, the latest of
which, Rumba Palace, came out last week on Telarc Jazz. The
multi-Grammy winner brings his current band to the Sunken Garden at the
College of William & Mary Saturday night as part of the Virginia
Arts Festival's weeklong Festival Williamsburg.
I called him at his home in Miami two weeks ago. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
How did you develop in so many different musical
Because I love music. Music is only one-good music. I
listened to all kind of things and I tried to learn as many styles and
as many things as I can.
Growing up in Castro's Cuba, were you exposed to a lot
of good music?
No, not much. But when you really want to find the
information, you will, you're going to try very hard. I used to hear the
short wave radio, the Voice of America in Washington, DC. They had a
jazz program everyday and I'd never miss one. That was the only way I
got to be familiar with jazz at all.
Did you fall in love with Dizzy Gillespie right
Oh yes. The first record that I ever heard was Dizzy
Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
Was there an immediate connection when you met
Absolutely. I was 27 years old. I couldn't speak any
English at all when I met him, but somehow we communicated and we
expressed our feelings. I wanted to understand about his music and to
tell him how much I loved him.
It must have been difficult for you being a jazz
musician and trying to tour while living in Cuba.
It was very difficult. Actually, they don't let us call
ourselves jazz musicians; we weren't allowed. Jazz was a forbidden kind
of thing there; they called it the music of imperialism.
Your new album, Rumba Palace, is named
after your new nightclub in South Beach Miami. What is it like owning
It's a beautiful experience. We never saw that as a
business. It is a privilege and an honor to make a contribution to the
development of culture in the city where I live. We bring in great
artists and it's very nice to see people recognize and appreciate that
You have always been involved in the educational side
of music. In fact, you are a professor at Florida International
That's correct; that's my seventeen years already in
the school. I teach as many classes as I can because I travel a lot.
When I go there, I give a master class and clinic with the trumpet
students, and I play with the big band. I play with the symphony
orchestra and the school choir often. I enjoy teaching when the students
really appreciate it and love music.
"I think it's a kind of an obligation because I learned
so many things from so many people. It's good, you feel great when you
have the opportunity to give back and share what you have learned with
so many students and people who have interest to learn about it.
Latin music is pretty hot these days.
Oh, I don't know about that. You know, I am really
concerned. It's difficult to hear good jazz on the radio or television.
And that breaks my heart. I have a strong belief that jazz is the most
beautiful and profound art form created in this country. Everybody loves
and respects and appreciates that style all over the world.
But here, sometimes we don't realize how important it
is to preserve that tradition and the legacy we get from so many great
composers and musicians who have been playing jazz music for so many
years. And it's not fair that we don't keep it and maintain it and talk
about it in the proportion we should.
Do you think there is a way for jazz to recapture some
of the audience?
We need the help of the media, the radio and
television. They focus on something else. God is not happy with what
we're doing with jazz over here.
Your music has a broad appeal beyond just the jazz
I try to make the concert the kind of music I enjoy to
play. I don't want to be remembered as a guy who did one single style of
music. That's not me. I love music. My favorite composer is
Rachmaninoff, those piano concertos. And I like the impressionists very
much-Ravel and Debussy, those composers. I love that kind of
How do you think your classical influences enter into
your jazz playing?
You know, good music always touches each other in some
way at some point. As much as you learn about any style of music, you're
going to have more tools, more skills to approach any kind of song from
I am trying when I go on the stage for people to have a
good time. That's my first priority. That's a unique experience when
you're on the stage and you see people having fun and enjoying what you
copyright © 2007 Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved.