It’s often said that music is a language, and it requires a vast set of technical skills and life experience to speak multiple tongues. That’s not completely true – it’s pretty easy to tackle different musical styles on a surface level. A shallow walk through many stylistic roads only demands some brief listening and a grasp of cliche sounds. When a musician integrates each subtle nuance into their performance, finding the authentic inflections, articulations, and accents of a style, then they’re speaking the language. Many musicians can master a single language, while others can handle a couple of styles, but it is true – only a special breed of musician can authentically move through multiple styles.
Arturo Sandoval is certainly a multi-lingual musician that speaks a number of different musical languages with a natural fluidity. Trained in Cuba during the sixties, Sandoval developed prodigious technique as a classical trumpet player and a rootsy connection to Cuban folklore. It was his love of jazz that would motivate him though, and as a professional, he found himself playing alongside great from the island like Chucho Valdes and his Irakere bandmates, as well figures form abroad like Dizzy Gillespie. He consumed musical languages, consuming new styles with a respect for authenticity and tradition. When he defected from Cuba to the United States, he was a musical dictionary, well versed in multiple styles of jazz, rhythmic traditions from the Caribbean and South America, as well as classical repertoire. He was warmly welcomed into the musical community in the States, and he began a career that would set new standards for trumpet virtuosity and stylistic knowledge. Latin Jazz became a backbone of his repertoire on albums like Danzon (Dance On), but he also explored classical trumpet pieces on The Classical Album, straight ahead jazz on Swingin’ and I Remember Clifford, and even solo piano on My Passion for the Piano. For years, Sandoval has been an unending stream of musical productivity, and with each new project, he speaks different musical tongues with a studied flair.
This clip is a fantastic example of Sandoval bridging a number of different musical languages while making some unforgettable music. In this video, Sandoval plays alongside a big band at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1998. As he covers musical material that leaps between Cuba, Brazil, and the United States, Sandoval plays with conviction and a deft fluency. There’s even a quick interview with the trumpet player that will give you a bit more insight into his diverse knowledge of different musical worlds.
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