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Catch him if you can

Trumpet legend Arturo Sandoval lives and plays at a rapid clip. Let's see if the Florida Orchestra can keep up with him.

By Sean Daly
Published January 4, 2007

Arturo Sandoval performs with the Florida Orchestra 8 p.m. Friday, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center; 8 p.m. Saturday, Mahaffey Theater; and 8 p.m. Monday, Ruth Eckerd Hall. $17-$52. (813) 286-2403 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286.
[AP photo]

"You gotta go! You gotta go! This is the way it should be!" So says Arturo "Gotta Go" Sandoval, the man, the trumpeter, the human track meet. Try to keep up, kids. The 57-year-old jazz legend has three bay area gigs with the Florida Orchestra this weekend. Sandoval will rehearse with the group the morning of the shows and then strive for flawlessness a few hours later. (Don't worry. He has done this before.)

Famously fluent at Afro-Cuban jazz, bebop, classical and smooth jazz, the critically huzzahed Sandoval wishes he had more time to tune up, but alas, these are gotta-go-go-go days. Not just the way he plays, mind you, but the way he lives. Sandoval also has been:

- Recording a new album (Latin jazz and Cuban grooves, which he composed himself).

- Teaching at Florida International University (master classes, clinics, shows with the school orchestra).

- Planning a New Year's Eve party (at the Deauville Beach Resort in his current home of Miami).

- Overseeing Miami's Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club, which opened in March.

"Hanging in there" with the heavy workload, Sandoval doesn't have time to stay in one place for too long - and that includes a phone interview hyping the Tampa Bay area shows. But he finds time, a little time at least, because that's what Arturo Sandoval does.

The four-time Grammy winner, who defected from his native Cuba in 1990 and earned U.S. citizenship in 1999, has become an international star mainly by being generous, upbeat and unfailingly Arturo, the hyperactive horn player with the ever-present smile.

Born in Artemisa, on the outskirts of Havana, Sandoval credits much of his enthusiasm for life, music and all things in between to his mentor, the late Dizzy Gillespie, "a beautiful person, big heart, big heart" who befriended Arturo when he was still caught in Castro's grip.

"Dizzy taught me a love and respect for music," says Sandoval, whose life was chronicled in the HBO movie For Love or Country, starring Andy Garcia. "Dizzy taught me to learn and improve. To maintain that appetite for music. ... The day I lose that appetite, I better retire. Thank God my health is good."

Dizzy also taught Arturo, who started playing trumpet at age 12, to love all music - not just jazz. (Although Sandoval is certainly encyclopedic on the trumpet, tempering his fast, fluttery playing style to make Trumpet Evolution a landmark 2003 album in which he mimicked 19 other famous trumpeters, including Chet Baker and Miles Davis.) While still in Cuba, Sandoval founded eclectic group Irakere, which experimented with jazz, classical and rock.

At a time when myriad jazz purists turn up their noses at hip-hop and pop (with Wynton Marsalis leading the charge), Sandoval has embraced the MTV crowd, performing with, among others, Justin Timberlake at the Grammy Awards and Alicia Keys at the Latin Billboard Awards.

R&B prodigy Keys is a particular favorite: "She's very sweet, very talented, very pretty, too. She came to my house, spent the whole afternoon there with my family. We had a great time." He later covered Keys' hit If I Ain't Got You on his 2005 disc, Live at the Blue Note.

Sandoval is eager to work with more hot pop stars. "They just have to ask me!" he says. "I'm available! I'm portable!"

With that, the portable Sandoval is on the move again. There is no time for questions about, say, Castro's health or the time he rocked the Apollo Theater with his festive Cuban bop.

"I gotta go!" Sandoval says with a hurried chuckle. "Really. I'm so sorry, friend. I gotta go. I got 10 people here looking at me. I gotta go!"

Sean Daly can be reached at or (727) 893-8467. His blog is at


On the move

Arturo Sandoval with the Florida Orchestra, Richard Kaufman conducting, 8 p.m. Friday, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa; 8 p.m. Saturday, Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg; and 8 p.m. Monday, Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. $17-$52. (813) 286-2403 or toll-free 1-800-662-7286.


[Last modified January 3, 2007, 15:22:48]

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