Freedom of expression has always been the essence of jazz music, and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval has been taking full advantage of his artistic freedom since defecting from Cuba twelve years ago.
When he first gained international recognition in the late '70s as a member of Irakere, the Latin jazz-fusion ensemble that also included saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera and pianist Chucho Valdés, Sandoval was perceived mainly as a high-note specialist in the tradition of Cootie Williams and Maynard Ferguson. But since emigrating to the United States, he has demonstrated uncommon versatility, performing and recording Latin music and jazz with his own small groups, making classical music with symphony orchestras and doing guest solos with artists ranging from Tony Bennett to Herbie Hancock.
Offstage, Sandoval has also composed soundtracks (including the score to 2000's For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, an HBO movie starring Andy Garcia) and written trumpet-method books, and he currently serves as a professor of music at Miami's Florida International University. The trumpeter's eclectic tendencies may have been best summed up on his 2003 album Trumpet Evolution, on which Sandoval interpreted the styles of his mentor and idol, Dizzy Gillespie, along with eighteen other prominent jazz and classical trumpeters of the twentieth century.
As a bandleader Sandoval continues to deliver plenty of fiery trumpet work, but he's also been known to put down the horn to join his percussionists in polyrhythmic workouts or to sit at the piano to perform a lyrical ballad. Though he's made the occasional misstep -- his 1999 album Americana, which featured some rather unfortunate interpretations of pop songs from the likes of Sting and Billy Joel, comes immediately to mind -- Sandoval's impressive skills, energy and willingness to take risks make him a musician to be both enjoyed and admired.