Virtuoso trumpeter Arturo Sandoval to bring his singular, passionate pursuit of music to India in a debut concert
Arturo Sandoval picked the trumpet because it is 'the only instrument that could soar above a 100-piece orchestra but could also whisper in a ballad'. In this interview with Firstpost, he discusses his musical inspirations, the evolving nature of jazz and why awards don't define success for him
Arturo Sandoval has lived a life entirely guided by music. Besides jazz, Sandoval is also a renowned classical musician, pianist, and composer.
With each new project, his process of composition varies, but always has the same, highly-detailed, musically nuanced outcome.
Sandoval is part of the NCPA Add Art Festival, with a live concert, an all-star jam, and a masterclass.
Arturo Sandoval's is a life that has been guided entirely by music. From being mentored by trumpet virtuoso Dizzy Gillespie to being jailed in Cuba for listening to the radio program ‘Voice of America', and defecting from Cuba to the United States and finally becoming an American citizen, he has been in the singular and passionate pursuit of music. “Music is in my soul. I always say that music is the balm of the soul. It soothes me, it calls me, it heals me. It also gets me dancing and excited – happy. I approach music with a lot of discipline and tonnes of respect. It is my life,” he tells Firstpost in an email interview.
Born in a small Cuban town in 1949, he would go on to become a virtuoso jazz trumpeter, composer and pianist (he is revered equally for his classical music work), as well as the recipient of 10 Grammy awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama, among several other accolades. When American jazz was only just beginning to see Latin influence through Dizzy Gillespie, Sandoval’s earliest introduction to the genre was through a radio network. “I was able to hear jazz by listening to a short-wave radio in Cuba that played ‘Voice of America’, and I was completely captivated,” he recounts.
From the age of 12, Sandoval started training in the classical trumpet, soon entering the exciting world of jazz. “I gravitated to the trumpet because I loved that it was the only instrument that could soar above a 100-piece orchestra but could also whisper in a ballad. Its versatility.” He is especially lauded for the remarkably high registers he reaches on the instrument and his spectacular technical superiority. “I practice every single day – without fail. There is no other option with the trumpet,” he says.
Besides Gillespie, whose influence he chronicles in the 2012 album Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You) and the 2014 book Dizzy Gillespie: The Man who Changed My Life; From the Memoirs of Arturo Sandoval, his other influences include composers Sergei Rachmaninoff, Jerry Goldsmith, and Oscar Peterson.
A glimpse into his discography reveals how varied his body of work is — his first studio album Flight to Freedom about coming to America, The Classical Album with the London Symphony Orchestra, instrumental essays on My Passion for the Piano and Trumpet Evolution, and Christmas at Notre Dame. Sandoval also composes soundtracks for films; he even scored the music for For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, the film based on his own life. With each new project, his process of composition varies but always has the same, highly-detailed, musically nuanced outcome. For instance, he explains, “at the moment I am working on a movie underscore, so it is the film that creates the vision and then I can feel the music and envision a 70-piece orchestra – every single instrument and what they should be playing.”
For an artist as vastly gifted as Sandoval, awards don’t define success. “Success is happiness and creating music!” And the extensive recognition doesn’t bring him down or make him feel constrained to do more, focusing singularly on the music itself. “Everything I have accomplished so far has been a gift. No pressure at all,” he says. In 2016, Sandoval was also awarded an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from The University of Notre Dame.
It’s this virtuosity that Sandoval brings to the stage during his live performances. “Performing is wonderful. It is when I can finally connect directly with the fans. Not just my fans, but fans of music – so it is a pleasure and an honour,” he says. This musicianship will be on display for audiences at his debut India concert, at Mumbai’s National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) on 29 November. Coming down as part of NCPA’s Add Art Festival which celebrates 50 years of the arts venue, Sandoval will also be part of a jam session on 30 November and give a masterclass on 1 December. For the All-Star Jam session, he will be accompanied on stage by djembe player Taufiq Qureshi, tabla player Aditya Kalyanpur, pianists Louiz Banks and Merlin D’Souza, drummer Gino Banks, bassists Sheldon D’Silva and Dee Wood, flutist Rajeev Raja, and saxophonist Rhys D’Souza. “Only music goes through my mind on stage; and having fun!” he says about improvising and jamming.
When not performing, Sandoval also shares his passion for music through teaching. His masterclasses, which he will also deliver at the NCPA, include talking about music and musicianship, the discipline and dedication required of a creative person, then touching upon the human aspects of being motivated and overcoming challenges, also discussing his personal journey. He then moves into the more technical aspects of playing the trumpet and brass instruments more generally, discussing sound, breathing, mouth and facial positioning, endurance, and improvisation and composition.
Sandoval also has a residency program for which he has received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) Foundation Award for Music Education, for having the most extensive education program in the music industry. As a teacher, he is witnessing first-hand the evolution of jazz, reiterating the importance of learning and enjoying the music. “I think jazz is an ever-changing and evolving genre – and that is one of the reasons I love it so much. Whatever direction it heads into is okay, as long as we are all learning and growing,” he says.
Arturo Sandoval will be part of the NCPA Add Art Festival in Mumbai, from 29 November to 1 December. More information here.
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