Most musicians encounter a variety of genres and styles throughout their careers, but very few of them apply those influences towards a genuinely unique output. Either by choice or necessity, many musicians will find themselves playing various musical styles, but they only get as close as they are required. Usually, a musician has a mainstay style that commands most of their attention, and any connection to another style simply puts food on the table. On a rare occasion, a musician finds themselves joyfully immersed in a variety of artistic directions, and they happily soak it all into their playing. This type of energy is addictive, and these artists generally find themselves in high demand. More importantly, they begin delivering new and exciting musical statements that emanate from their vast exposure. When these musicians move into the position of bandleader, it’s a guarantee that they’ll have something interesting to say.
Percussionist Sammy Figueroa has followed his passion through many stylistic turns in his career, making him into a strong bandleader with depth and vision. Born in New York, Figueroa spent his childhood moving between the city and Puerto Rico, gaining a full connection to both cultures. His father, Charlie Figueroa was a popular singer, and although Charlie spent a good deal of time performing away from home, Sammy still spent ample time around his musical connections. He began performing around the island as a percussionist in his teens, gaining valuable experience and technical skills. He later moved to New York, and while he was working in a record store, regular customer Herbie Mann encouraged Figueroa to start playing again. Within a matter of time, Figueroa was touring with Mann to the Montreux Jazz Festival, he became a member of the Average White Band, and worked his way into the high profile New York studio scene. Figueroa balanced his time between live performances with some of the era’s best bands such as The Brecker Brothers and studio work with the top pop and rock acts of the day. He continued to find regular work among the New York music scene through the eighties, becoming a well known, liked, and respected figure in studios and beyond. In the nineties, Figueroa took his first trip to Cuba and experienced a major musical revelation as he sat in with Irakere, Lazaro Ros, and more. He joined together with producer Rachel Faro and the team began capturing Cuban artists on record. As a result, several important albums from Cuban groups such as Vocal Sampling, Afro-Cuba, and Mezcla were recorded and distributed, making the world aware of some amazing music. By the turn of the century, Figueroa had relocated and found himself in Miami, where he began working his way into the local music scene. As his presence on the local scene grew, he established his own group, Sammy Figueroa And The Latin Jazz Explosion. Drawing upon some of the best musicians in the area, Figueroa recorded And Sammy Walked In . . ., garnering national respect and a Grammy nomination. He followed the album with another stunning collection of high energy Latin Jazz, a recording entitled The Magician, which once again earned a Grammy nomination. While still working high profile sideman gigs – most visibly with saxophone legend Sonny Rollins – Figueroa has solidified the musical basis of his work and delivered a mature artistic product with his latest release, Urban Nature. Displaying the wisdom of experience and knowledge of a master musician, Figueroa has emerged as an important voice in modern Latin Jazz.
Figueroa spent years working as a musical chameleon, adding his smart touch to every project that he encountered while expanding his vision at every turn. As a bandleader, Figueroa has demonstrated this amazingly insightful ability on all his recordings, delivering a high quality product that draws upon tradition while sparkling with a unique flavor. In anticipation of his outstanding third release, Urban Nature, today’s Weekly Latin Jazz Video Fix is dedicated to Figueroa. The first two videos find Figueroa leading The Latin Jazz Explosion through pieces from his first two albums live in Miami. The third clip displays another side of Figueroa, this time with his second band, Sally’s Tomato: A Tribute To Cal Tjader. The last selection is priceless – a duet between Figueroa and phenomenal pianist Michel Camilo on the jazz standard “Blue Bossa.” Take some time with these different sides of Figueroa and check out his beautiful approach to the music, there’s some insightful playing there – enjoy!
Sammy Figueroa And His Latin Jazz Explosion Performing At Coconut Groove
Sammy Figueroa And His Latin Jazz Explosion Performing “Healing Man”
Sammy Figueroa And Sally’s Tomato: A Tribute To Cal Tjader Performing “Alonzo”
Sammy Figueroa And Michel Camilo Playing “Blue Bossa”
Do you have a video to contribute to satisfy our weekly Latin Jazz video fix? If so, send it in – it’s time to feed our addiction. I’m looking for live performances, from any context. I’ll most likely be posting one video per week, but if you’ve got another idea, let’s talk. So come on Latin Jazz videographers, musicians, and fans – let’s share some of our memorable videos! Get my contact info HERE.
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Weekly Latin Jazz Video Fix: Silvano Monasterios
Latin Jazz Conversations: Michel Camilo (Part 1)
Album Of The Week: The Magician, Sammy Figueroa & His Latin Jazz Explosion