A blazing, technically flawless trumpeter from Cuba, Arturo Sandoval has been dazzling audiences all over the world with his supercharged tone and bop-flavored flurries way up in the trumpet's highest register. In slower numbers, he sports a golden, mellow tone on the flügelhorn, marked with a sure, subtle sense of swing. Apparently he is capable of playing anything, proving it more than once by tackling classical repertoire as well as jazz in the same concert, and he has enough curiosity to search far beyond his Cubop base for repertoire. Yet he often lets his desire to please the crowd with high-note displays get in the way of musical values, and he has yet to make a great record that can stand with those trumpet giants that have preceded him.
The son of an auto mechanic, Sandoval took up the classical trumpet at 12 and was enrolled in the Cuban National School of the Arts at 15, studying with a Russian classical trumpeter. Early in the 1970s, he became one of the founding members of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, which by 1973 had evolved into the Afro-Cuban, rock-influenced band Irakere. Sandoval met his idol Dizzy Gillespie in 1977, who promptly became a mentor and colleague, playing with Sandoval in concerts in Europe and Cuba and later featuring him in the United Nation Orchestra. After recording an album with David Amram, Havana/New York, and a couple of high-profile Irakere albums on Columbia, Sandoval left the group in 1981 to tour with his own band and record in Cuba. Occasionally, the Castro government would allow Sandoval to appear in various international jazz festivals and with orchestras like the BBC Symphony and Leningrad Philharmonic. Though he chafed under a regime that restricted his touring, Sandoval bided his time until he could get his wife and son out of Cuba, and only then, in July 1990 during a long European tour, did he defect at the American Embassy in Rome, settling in Florida.
Signing with GRP, Sandoval's first American album, appropriately titled Flight to Freedom, demonstrated his versatility in several idioms, and he toured with his own high-energy Afro-Cuban group in the 1990s. Hot House followed in 1998, and a year later he returned with Americana. L.A. Meetings appeared in spring 2001. For 2003's Trumpet Evolution, Sandoval selected material from his favorite horn players. Since that time, he has released a handful of recordings including Live at the Blue Note in 2005 and Arturo Sandoval & the Latin Jazz Orchestra and Rumba Palace, both in 2007. In 2010, Sandoval released his first album for the Concord Jazz imprint, a collection of ballads entitled Time for Love. Sandoval and the WDR Big Band's Mambo Nights followed in 2011, with Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You), a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, arriving in 2012. ~ Richard S. Ginell