Arturo Sandoval: I Have Fulfilled my Dreams

English translation of an excellent interview with Arturo Sandoval, from Ivan’s File Cabinet:


To speak about music in Cuba is an analogy. Cuba is the music. There are nice people, splendid weather, the smell of salty residue, and there’s always a reason to party. Other things, like the shrimp, tropical fruits, or beef are a luxury after 54 years of misrule. Cuba lacks essential liberties, but the music goes on.

Fidel Castro tried to scrap the Sunday calls to retreat and replace them with arrhythmic marches calling for combat. The olive-green regime planned to transform music. To bury guaguancó, toque de santo, and jazz.

But he couldn’t. In addition to inventing parameters to measure the quality of a music, in the medias sent to censure the greats like Mario Bauzá, Celia Cruz, or such a Lupe, only because they chose to observe from the distance the ideological folly established in the island.

And the music, like poetry, doesn’t let you break. The trumpeter, pianist, and composer Arturo Sandoval (Artemeisa, 1949), knows this very well. In the flesh has lived the holy war that political and cultural commissioners, scribes and historians, unleashed in 1990 when he decided to move away from the Communist madhouse. According to official decree, Sandoval was to die.

It’s rained a lot since then. The times are different. It’s been 24 years, indignant Berliners in the night demolished the wall that divided a same nation. Castro had to change politically. He spoke of socialism or death on a Havana platform, but from the sewers of power, sent especially trying to make negotiations with magnates of capitalism. He had to make accords. With the Catholic Church, the Afro-Cuban religion and with the selfsame devil. He cracked the social discipline and the fear was lost.

And in full view you could find blacks on a Cayo Hueso lot, in downtown Havana, between rounds of rum and dominos, daring to listen, at full volume, to Celia Cruz, Willy Chirino, Paquito D’Rivera. or A Time for Love, disco from 2010 by Arturo Sandoval. I was a witness.

On November 6th the Cuban trumpeter turned 64. On the 21st of this month his name may be announced in Las Vegas as the winner of a Grammy, the tenth in his career, to go along with 6 Billboard Awards and an Emmy. Although the most moving of all will be the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which will be presented to him in December by Barack Obama, along with fifteen other figures, including former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Mexican scientist and Nobel Prize winner in chemistry Mario Molina. Despite his busy schedule, Arturo Sandoval graciously answered a questionnaire from Diario de Cuba.

Arturo, I was a boy when your name rang out with force on the island. I remember you taking complete notes on the trumpet while Irakere was making Bacalao with bread. Would you be able to summarize your artistic trajectory?

“I have to give thanks to God every day because in my career I’ve been able to accomplish my dreams. Look, coming from a dirt-poor family, where nobody was linked to art, and me having been able to be in the best situations and share with the musical greats. I think that sums up my trajectory: a dream come true.”

He doesn’t say it out of modesty, but another dream come true is the Arturo Sandoval Institute, proud institution of Cuban music on two shores.

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The Young Negro and the Pope

From the incomparable Paquito D’Rivera:

The Young Negro and the Pope

A few days ago, a young and brave black Cuban named Andres Carrión Alvarez, –the only member of the Union Patriotica de Cuba (UNPACU) who evaded detention from the Cuban political police–,screamed “Down with Communism!” just in front of the Pope Benedict XVI’s podium, during his mass in Santiago de Cuba.  Almost immediately, secret agents in plain clothes mixed with the crowd, violently arrested Carrion in front of the Pope and his entourage.  Several cameras followed him while a gang of policemen and even members of the Cuban Red Cross brutally beat the young man with his hands securely tied to his back.

In (almost) any other nation around the world, such a deplorable action would be absolutely unacceptable.  Up to this day, Carrión remains in custody and incommunicado, so we’re still waiting for some leaders of the African-American community to express some kind of commentary about such an arbitrary and repressive–yet common– behavior by the Cuban authorities.  I wonder what would be the reaction of said community in case this black youngster would be of some other nationality.  We’d also love to know where the Obamas, Glovers, Sharptons, Reverend Jacksons and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are when Afro-Cubans need them?

Paquito D’Rivera

Thanks to Paquito and  La Voz de Cuba Libre.

Latin Jazz Conversations: Paquito D’Rivera


Check out this interview with the great Paquito D’ RiveraPart 1 and Part 2 at  The Latin Jazz Corner.

Here’s a sample:

LJC: You guys put together Irakere with members of the Orquesta; how did the idea for Irakere come about?

PDR: It was Chucho, Emilio, Carlos, and Oscar Valdes, the singer/percussionist – they wanted to put a group together to travel. It was very simple! We didn’t know that we were going to have such an impact in jazz and Latin music around the world. We were just working to do something good. The first group was Jorge Varona on the trumpet and me playing the baritone and my curved soprano.

The first piece that we recorded was “Bacalao Con Pan,” and that was an instant success. We didn’t really expect it to be such a success. Oscar had never been a singer before; he had a very good voice, but he was never a singer. So Chucho encouraged him to sing, and it was a success.

LJC: I’ve heard that there was an effort to hide jazz in Cuban music through Irakere; was there that intention to make it a jazz group?

PDR: The idea was to hide the word jazz as much as possible, which is not an easy task, especially when all the players are jazz musicians. The idea was to hide it, like, don’t mention the word jazz here – don’t tell and don’t ask!   We discovered this before the American government – don’t tell, don’t ask!

LJC: Was there a lot of government intervention?

PDR: From some people. Some people in the government would say, “They are jazz players! They want to play the role like they’re not jazz players, but they are.” It was an accusation! For them, it was kind of like saying, “They are cocaine dealers!” Chucho denied it; he would say, “We are not playing jazz, we are playing contemporary Afro-Cuban music.”

H/T: Peter

Francisco Aguabella Benefit Tomorrow


If you’re in Southern California, don’t miss this:

Tuesday, March  9 8P-1A
A special benefit tribute to the legendary Franciso Aguabella

Featuring the Banda Bros & Friends

Friends Scheduled to Appear:
Sheila E
Poncho Sanchez
Alex Acuna
Justo Almario
Sal Cracchiolo
Danilo Lozano
Jose “Papo” Rodriguez
Charles Owens
John Clayton
Charlie Atwell
Nengue Hernandez
Oscar Brashear
Art Velasco
And many more

$ 20 Donation at the Door

Doors Open at 7P


For more information visit Steamers Jazz,  here.