Arturo Sandoval Public Domain. Photo of Sandoval performing during a White House reception celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in 2001.

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval stands apart as one of the world’s most renowned jazz trumpeters. A versatile and talented musician, his career crosses the worlds of classical, jazz and Afro-Cuban music. His playing displays a technically fluent command of bebop and Afro-Cuban styles. Together, these two styles define his considerable contributions to Latin jazz.

Born in Havana, Cuba in 1949, Sandoval began learning classical trumpet at the age of 12 before going on to study at Cuba’s National School of the Arts. During these formative years, Sandoval listened intently to another exciting musical form coming over the airwaves from 90 miles to the north—American jazz. He recalls listening to the Voice of America broadcasts every day as a young man, and it was this exposure that fueled his passion for experimentations in Latin jazz.

Sandoval’s first opportunity to explore Latin jazz professionally came in 1967, when he co-founded the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna with alto saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and pianist Chucho Valdés. The group then reformed as the Afro-Cuban fusion band Irakere in 1973 and achieved international prominence. Thanks to the success of Irakere, Sandoval attracted the attention of legendary jazz musician Dizzie Gillespie during his visit to Cuba in 1977. It was Gillespie's use of Latin influences that had first inspired the young Sandoval to explore his Cuban roots through the jazz medium. For the aspiring jazz trumpeter, meeting Gillespie was like meeting his idol. The two quickly formed a close friendship that yielded a lifetime of collaboration.

Sandoval’s professional aspirations were hindered, however, by travel limitations imposed by the Cuban government. He bided his time while continuing to tour abroad with Gillespie, and in 1990 he defected to the United States. After settling in Florida, Sandoval recorded his first American album, Flight to Freedom, followed by Danzón (Dance On) in 1994 and Hot House in 1998. All three projects won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album. Since then, Sandoval has continued collaborating and recording with a range of popular, classical and jazz artists. His 2011 tribute album to Gillespie, Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You), won a Grammy the following year. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Point of Interest