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Interviews & Reviews - Interview and Review - Arturo Sandoval
Arturo Sandoval- Let There Be Bop
(Review and photos by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved)
When I first set out to interview Arturo, I was warned well in advance that he very much lived in the now, and that past history wasn't his favorite subject. As someone who had been listening to him since perhaps even before Irakere (he played with the Orq Cubana de Musica Moderna before that), I had dozens of questions that I suddenly realized probably would remain unasked and unanswered. But I still had plenty of others, including, of course, regarding what he was up to these days, so I forged ahead on April 20, 2011 and what came out of the conversation was still pretty interesting:
I then attended his April 22 set at the Viper Alley in Lincolnshire, a nice and relatively new venue well-suited for this type of combo. I knew from the interview that this would largely be straight-ahead jazz, but hey, it's Arturo, and he's usually a must-see. Still the consummate showman that he always has been, doing some scat and taking a turn at percussion (and very briefly, piano) in addition to the trumpet and flugelhorn. I kept the words from his interview in the back of my mind as I listened to the music and watched him, and I noticed something. For the sake of being sociable perhaps, he did a little Cuban music (including the standard "Rico Pilon "), and it was very well-executed, but while he was playing it, he just didn't look quite like the same Arturo that busted loose when he went back to Bebop. Once back on Gillespie's old turf, he was a man completely transported. Nobody has ever questioned his technique, but some naysayers in the Jazz community have occasionally questioned the depth of his jazz sensibilities at different points over the years. That night, in that room, there was really no basis to question either. Arturo had mentioned that he was still studying Bebop, but this listener is convinced that he already gets it now without the need for any asterisks or footnotes after the description. More importantly, while he is playing it, he looks as if he has finally found Nirvana, something far less visible in his eyes when he dips back into the Cuban book.
So, Arturo, if you and/or your friends are reading this, I say to you publicly: Let there be bop. No question that you should do what you love best, especially since you do it so very well. (This writer also loves Jazz and has no cause to complain.) But as you go forward in life, I hope that you will still remain able to humor those of us who also fondly remember the things you did to help advance Cuban music (and Latin Jazz) when you were younger as well. (And I would still love to talk a little more musical history some day if you're ever in the mood......)