Arturo Sandoval – Backstage at Iridium Jazz Club



The world-famous Iridium Jazz Club, located just north of Times Square at 51st Street and Broadway in Manhattan, plays host to some of the top names in jazz from around the world – as well as some of the brightest new faces on the scene. takes you BACKSTAGE AT IRIDIUM to meet some of the world’s top music makers.

This past weekend, we were fortunate enough to squeeze into the totally packed house (including 55 teenagers who took a bus in from Pittsburgh) to see legendary Cuban-born trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval take the stage with his quintet. Check out Part One of the interview below – and keep an eye on SUNfiltered this Friday for Part Two! What significance does the Iridium Jazz Club hold for you?

Arturo Sandoval: I heard about the club for years, of course, but this is my third time actually performing here. This is a place where I really feel more comfortable in New York City. I LOVE the place and the audiences who come here – the relationship an artist can establish with the audience here is like a dream come true. You’ve composed scores for films such as THE PEREZ FAMILY and MAMBO KINGS… but I recently read that you’ve also been collaborating with actress/director/choreographer Debbie Allen on some cool projects.

Arturo Sandoval: Yes, we did one ballet and two musical theatre pieces together…all three commissioned by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The first was a ballet for children called PEPITO’S STORY, the second a musical called SOUL POSSESSED and the third, we just did now, called OMAN-O. We just premiered the third one about three weeks ago at the Kennedy Center. All of them, Debbie wrote the lyrics, wrote the book, she did the choreography and everything — I just collaborated with her and wrote the music. She is such a talented lady and it’s such a pleasure and a privilege and an honor to collaborate with her – I have a great time with her, always. Going back to your childhood in Cuba…

Arturo Sandoval: Oh, that’s an antique story (laughs)… What was your musical training like?

Arturo Sandoval: My training has always been by ear and I was kind of self-taught, you know. The music for me, besides being my passion, my love… I always called music my salvation because I was a complete hopeless kid in the middle of nowhere on the island of Cuba. We were extremely poor – didn’t even have a floor…just dirt. (Sandoval was granted political asylum in 1990 and US citizenship in 1999). So what did music bring to that kind of a life?

Arturo Sandoval: Well, as I said, I was a complete hopeless…I couldn’t see the horizon at all. But when music got into my mind and my soul – I thought, “Wow! I want to be a professional musician!” (Sandoval began studying the trumpet at age 12 and was an eventual protégé of the great Dizzy Gillespie, who was the first musician to bring Latin influences into American jazz). What did your family think of your plans?

Arturo Sandoval: Oh they thought I was crazy at first. They said, “Why would you want to do that?” But I didn’t even HAVE a second choice… this was THE choice for me. I wanted to be a musician…period. And they are a wonderful family, so after they realized how serious I was they really supported me. If I were to be born again, I would want the exact same family. No question. So music eventually provided many other opportunities for you…

Arturo Sandoval: I have been so blessed. The music made me a happy person and gave me the opportunity to help almost every single member of my entire family…and it’s a BIG family (laughs), It is so good to have that feeling – that you can help people instead of having to ask for help.

Check back tomorrow for Part Two of our interview with the great (and fun as hell) Arturo Sandoval!

Learn more:

Arturo Sandoval’s Official Website

Iridium Jazz Club Official Site

Read Part 2 of Between Sets with Arturo Sandoval