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Bobby Sanabria

Bobby Sanabria is a 7-time Grammy-nominee as a leader. He is a noted drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, conductor, producer, educator, documentary film maker, and bandleader of Puerto Rican descent born and raised in NY’s South Bronx. He was the drummer for the acknowledged creator of Afro-Cuban jazz, Mario Bauzá touring and recording three CD’s with him, two of which were Grammy nominated, as well as an incredible variety of artists. From Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria (with whom he started his career) Paquito D’Rivera, Yomo Toro, Candido, The Mills Brothers, Ray Barretto, Chico O’Farrill, Francisco Aguabella, Henry Threadgill, Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Daniel Ponce, Larry Harlow, Daniel Santos, Celia Cruz, Adalberto Santiago, Xiomara Portuondo, Pedrito Martinez, Roswell Rudd, Patato, David Amram, the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Michael Gibbs, Charles McPherson Jon Faddis, Bob Mintzer, Phil Wilson, Randy Brecker, Charles Tolliver, M'BOOM, Michelle Shocked, Marco Rizo, and many more. In addition he has guest conducted and performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras like the WDR Big Band, The Airmen of Note, The U.S. Jazz Ambassadors, Eau Claire University Big, The University of Calgary Big Band to name just a few.

His first big band recording, Live & in Clave!!! was nominated for a Grammy in 2001. A Grammy nomination followed in 2003 for 50 Years of Mambo: A Tribute to Perez Prado. His 2008 Grammy nominated Big Band Urban Folktales was the first Latin jazz recording to ever reach #1 on the national Jazz Week charts. In 2009 the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra he directs at the Manhattan School of Music was nominated for a Latin Grammy for Kenya Revisited Live!!!, a reworking of the music from Machito’s greatest album, Kenya. In 2011 the recording Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! by the same orchestra under Bobby’s direction was nominated for a Latin Jazz Grammy. Partial proceeds from the sale of both CD’s continue to support the scholarship program in the Manhattan School of Music’s jazz program. Bobby’s 2012 big band recording, inspired by the writings of Mexican author Octavio Paz, entitled MULTIVERSE was nominated for 2 Grammys. His work as an activist led him to fight to reinstate the Latin Jazz category after NARAS decided to eliminate many ethnic and regional categories in 2010. He and three other colleagues actually sued the Grammys which led to the reinstatement of the category. He is an associate producer of and featured interviewee in the documentaries, The Palladium: Where Mambo Was King, winner of the IMAGINE award for Best TV documentary of 2003, and the Alma Award winning From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale where he also composed the score in 2006 and was broadcast on PBS. In 2009 he was a consultant and featured on screen personality in Latin Music U.S.A. also broadcast on PBS. In 2017 he was also a consultant and featured on air personality for the documentary We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo. He is the composer for the score of the 2017 documentary Some Girls. DRUM! Magazine named him Percussionist of the Year in 2005; he was also named 2011 and 2013 Percussionist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. This South Bronx native of Puerto Rican parents was a 2006 inductee into the Bronx Walk of Fame. He holds a BM from the Berklee College of Music and is on the faculty of the New School University and the Manhattan School of Music where he has taught Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestras passing on the tradition while moving it forward. His recording with the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra entitled “Que Viva Harlem!” released in 2014 on the Jazzheads label has received ****1/2 stars in Downbeat magazine.

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Bobby's latest recording project, “Big Band Urban Folktales”, on the Jazzheads label, is proving to be his most lauded work and it has been garnering critical acclaim for its futuristic approach to the Latin jazz big band canon. “...(Mr. Sanabria) expands the possibilities, moving the sound of bands like that of (Puente, Machito), with all the heft and intricacy and clave-based dance rhythm, into the harmonically oriented sophistication of current New York jazz players. It's New York up and down, and back and forth across the last century, from the street to the mambo palaces to the conservatories.” - Ben Ratliff, The NY Times

Also look out for the DVD of Bobby and his nonet Ascensión's scorching appearance at the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival currently released by Hudson Music and the release of the CD, “El Espiritu Jibaro”

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From: Players
By Bobby Sanabria



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