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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Arturo Sandoval: Virtuoso trumpeter to perform at Avalon

Mar 03, 2020 12:04PM ● By Beacon Senior News

Cuban trumpeter and 10-time Grammy Award winner Arturo Sandoval started his musical career at age 12 as a street musician on the outskirts of Havana. He taught himself to play piano and percussion but found that his greatest passion was for the trumpet.

In May 1977, Sandoval was waiting at the landing dock as the first American cruise ship since the 1961 Cuban missile crisis was allowed to enter Havana Harbor for a two-day visit. Several musicians were on the jazz cruise including Stan Getz, Earl “Fatha” Hines and Dizzy Gillespie.

One of the band members spoke Spanish and asked 27-year-old Sandoval what he wanted. He said he just wanted to be of service. To which Gillespie responded, “Does he have a car?”

Sandoval, who couldn’t speak a word of English, became Gillespie’s driver for the day. He took him to places where he could listen to music and meet other musicians. He never told him that Gillespie was his hero, or that he could play.

That evening, the government had employed Sandoval’s band, Irakere, to entertain and welcome the American musicians. Gillespie was astonished when he heard Sandoval play. It was the beginning of a long mentor-protégé musical relationship and father-son friendship.

America bound

Sandoval’s first trip to America took him to Carnegie Hall where his band was scheduled to perform. Columbia Records had signed Irakere to a recording contract after they’d received a Grammy for Best Latin Album in 1978.

Backstage, he met jazz legend Maynard Ferguson, who gave him his horn after noticing that Sandoval’s was falling apart. A few days later, Gillespie gave him one of his trumpets as well.

Sandoval was in heaven. He knew then that America was where he wanted to live.

His musical legacy

Gillespie called Sandoval one of the greatest musicians he’d ever heard. Sandoval won an Emmy for the music he composed for the HBO movie about his life, “For Love or Country” (2000), starring Andy Garcia. The film is the story of Sandoval’s life up to his defection to the U.S.

“Like Dizzy, Arturo is a man of true genius—not only with his horn but also as an accomplished pianist, arranger and composer,” Garcia said.

Sandoval has composed music scores for numerous movies, including Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule” and “Richard Jewell.”

Sandoval was commissioned by The Kennedy Center to compose a ballet. He’s also written a trumpet concerto that he performed and recorded with the London Symphony.

Sandoval has performed at the Super Bowl and the White House. In 2013, he received the Presidential Medal of Honor.

Sandoval currently resides in Miami where he is a professor at Florida International University.

Like Gillespie, Sandoval is a true virtuoso. He’s also funny, personable and downright irresistible as he banters with the audience and leads his six-piece band.

Don’t miss Sandoval perform at the Avalon Theatre in Grand Junction on Sunday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $49.

Purchase your tickets at the Avalon Box Office by calling 263-5757, at or Caution: These are the ONLY authorized ticket sellers. Be wary of scammers!