Born: June 2, 1957 in South Bronx, New York, NY
Genre: Jazz, Latin
Styles: Afro-Cuban Jazz, World Fusion, Salsa, Cuban Jazz, Plena, Post-Bop, Puerto Rican Traditions, Latin Jazz
Drummer/percussionist and conductor Bobby Sanabria has long been part of New York's vibrant Latin jazz club scene. The multi-talented Sanabria grew up in the tough South Bronx. While attending a Tito Puente concert when he was 17, he slipped backstage and asked the legendary percussionist if he could sit in. He did, and this experience spurred him on to make Latin jazz his career path. He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in 1979. Shortly after graduation, Sanabria formed his group Ascensio'n. Sanabria was honored with a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1983. He was a featured performer on the Mambo Kings movie soundtrack, and he recorded with Mario Bauza' & His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra on Bauza''s Tanga album. His TV work includes a public television documentary on the life of Mongo Santamaria and an appearance on The Bill Cosby Show.
A teacher, writer, arranger, bandleader, studio musician, and producer, Sanabria's love for Latin jazz music knows no bounds. He sees it as part of his mission to continue to educate the public about the wonders of this percussive, often very dance-oriented music. He has performed and lectured for thousands of New York City public school students, teachers, and families as part of the city-run Arts Exposure Program. Sanabria has written articles for Modern Drummer and been featured in the magazine in several interviews.
Since forming his own group after graduating from Berklee, Sanabria has performed with most of the major figures in modern Latin jazz, including Puente, Paquito d'Rivera, Chico Freeman, Luis "Perico" Ortiz, Daniel Ponce, Michael Gibbs, Phil Wilson, Mario Bauza, Marco Rizo, and Dizzy Gillespie.
In November 1993, Chicago-based Flying Fish Records (owned by Rounder Records) released New York City Ache!, an album that includes special guests Puente and d'Rivera. His debut for the Flying Fish label even included a glossary of Latin jazz terms in the liner notes. Released in 2000, Afro-Cuban Dream: Live and in Clave! marked his next official solo album. Recorded live, it captured his exotic rhythmic jazz in its finest form, and was soon followed up with a collaboration with Quarteto Ache' in 2002. Subsequently in the new millennium, Bobby Sanabria's albums as leader have included Big Band Urban Folktales (2007), Kenya Revisited (2009), and Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! (2011), the latter two featuring Sanabria conducting the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. In addition to his work in Latin jazz education and recording, he continued to perform at clubs and festivals around the world. MULTIVERSE, featuring La Bruja and Charenee Wade, appeared in 2012.
- Richard Skelly (All Music Guide)