Arturo Sandoval lowered his trumpet and looked into the packed audience. His band had just blasted and bubbled its way through a burning Afro-Cuban opening number, but some folks were still keeping their cool. Sandoval grinned down at one fellow: “Relax, man, smile. The only one who impresses me with that face is my wife. Or a cop.”
Sandoval is touring with a program celebrating his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie. The influence isn’t just in the bebop brass, but also in Sandoval’s stage presence, which, like Dizzy’s, adds a touch of the comedian and raconteur to the virtuoso. Beyond the horn, Sandoval also snapped out a few rhythms on his timbales, dueted on an electric keyboard and soloed on a baby grand. His vocals ranged from cartoonish scatting to a soft, melancholy rendition of his recent ballad “Every Day I Think of You,” dedicated to his mentor.
For the finale, Sandoval rendered one of the master’s masterworks: “A Night in Tunisia,” its sinuous melody, curving around glittering horn runs, carried along by the rumbling background rhythm. Heads bobbed, shoulders shook, the audience whooped and hollered. “We have a lot of fun up here,” Sandoval said. We have a lot of fun down here, too. ★★★★✩
Photos by Linda Evans