With the exception of announcing the arrival of royalty, trumpets aren't typically considered the most impressive of instruments on their own. They aren't particularly delicate or dainty and it takes quite a set of lungs - not to mention an abundance of saliva - to even produce a note.
So when someone is described as a trumpet master, it's bound to provoke some speculation as to what exactly this means. Does it mean having won four Grammys, six Billboard Awards and an Emmy? Perhaps it means having traveled the world performing across a wide scope of genres to create a musical career that hasn't slowed down in over 40 years? Could it be when HBO decides to make a movie out of said life and casts Andy Garcia as the star?
These realities are all part of Cuban-born musician Arturo Sandoval's life. Despite this list of accomplishments, Sandoval remains a man as enthralled with music as he was when he first discovered it.
Sandoval was born in a small town outside Havana, Cuba in 1949 during a time when American jazz was on the cusp of experimentation with the Latin American sound. Sandoval took up classical trumpet at the age of 12 and jazz quickly caught his attention thereafter.
"I started playing music in 1961, I heard [jazz] and said 'oh my goodness, I want to learn that,'" Sandoval said in a recent interview, his enthusiasm bleeding through the phone line.
"I love the sound and I still love it. You can spread any idea and go from a whisper to a shout. With the instrument you [can] express yourself in every way," Sandoval said.
Sandoval co-founded the acclaimed Cuban rock group Irakere, The group's ensuing recognition allowed him to start his own band with a focus on his unique fusion of jazz and Latin sounds.
During this time, Sandoval fell under the spell of American jazz sensation Dizzy Gillespie. Eventually, Sandoval met Gillespie, which was the impetus for both a fruitful working relationship and friendship with the man who Sandoval cites as both a hero and mentor.
Sandoval described the first time he met Gillespie in 1977 with characteristic earnestness. "Oh my goodness, such emotion. It was like a gift from god. He encouraged me a lot and he was very good to me."
Gillespie and Sandoval collaborated and toured together from that point on and became close friends. Gillespie eventually help Sandoval gain political asylum in the United States, offering the musician a permanent reprieve from the tumult taking place in Casto-controlled Cuba.
This story became the basis for HBO's 2000 film, For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story. Cuban-born actor Andy Garcia signed on to play Sandoval, while Sandoval naturally provided the soundtrack to the piece that chronicles his struggle with his loyalty to his wife and their native Cuba and his desire to freely play the music he loved, jazz.
Yet Sandoval's list of accomplishments doesn't end here. While he is known for versatility on the trumpet, he also plays jazz piano and percussion, and composes and teaches.
Teaching for Sandoval is a way to give to others what Gillespie gave to him.
"I just retired last year from FIU (Florida International University) after ten years. I always like when people are really into music and really appreciate that. [Teaching] is like a circle," Sandoval said. It's not just these aspiring trumpeters who have benefited from Sandoval's experience and talent, but countless other musicians ranging from Frank Sinatra to Justin Timberlake.
Despite having claimed he's "retired" Sandoval is still teaching, touring and, of course, playing the trumpet daily. He's so busy in fact, when I asked if he's been to Bend before, he responded with an honest, "maybe yes, maybe no; I go a lot of places."
We'll take that as a maybe.
7:30pm Saturday, March 26. Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St. $37-$42. Visit Towertheatre.org or
call 317-0700 for tickets.