Joe Klopus (Kansas City Star) calls Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval “the man with the amazing chops, the trumpet player whose every solo is a lesson in how to make that difficult horn do your bidding.” The musician was in Kansas to play at Rhythm and Ribs. Here are excerpts of the Sandoval story from his interview with Klopus:
[. . .] The story begins in Cuba, “in the countryside of the island,” he says. Growing up, he was exposed only to the island’s own music, but that was enough. After flirting with other instruments, he took up the trumpet. “They put together in my village a little marching band, and they gave me a trumpet. Before that I was trying a few different instruments, but that one really captured my feeling.”
And his feelings came through loud and clear. In the cauldron that was Cuban music, the country boy developed a refined set of musical skills that are now envied around the world. Fidel Castro’s Cuba may have been culturally isolated in the 1970s, but its music was something to admire. And Sandoval was in the middle of the scene. He even got to see the world outside Cuba a little, through his work as a member of the earth-shaking band Irakere, also featuring reed virtuoso Paquito d’Rivera and piano giant Chucho Valdes.
In 1977, one of his heroes, Dizzy Gillespie, the trumpeter who brought Afro-Cuban influences to the forefront in modern jazz, paid a visit to Havana. Sandoval was determined to meet his idol and worked out a trick to win him over: “I took him around the city, showed him where the jam sessions were. Then I told him I was a musician too. When we came back to the hotel, he had me play. [. . .] Gillespie and Sandoval appeared as a trumpet team around the world, an important boost to Sandoval’s reputation.
In the early 1980s, Sandoval left Irakere to form his own band. He performed internationally, not just in the jazz idiom but also in the classical idiom, because he had come that far from being a small-town musician. [. . .] In 1990, while on tour with Gillespie, he defected and settled in the United States. He has since created a long string of successful solo projects inside and outside of jazz. Just ask Gloria Estefan, Johnny Mathis or Herbie Hancock about him — or just about any classical trumpeter.
He has written music for films and television. He has been honored with Grammy Awards. There was even a made-for-TV movie about his life, “For Love or Country,” starring Andy Garcia.
At 62, he keeps music at the center of his life: “I teach, I practice piano, I write music. I do different things every single day in music. But I always have to practice, because the trumpet don’t give you a break.”
Photo from http://www.miami.com/culture-club-article