Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bobby Sanabria Big Band: Live and in Clave

In the 1940s Machito & his Afro-Cubans, under the musical direction of Mario Bauza, gave the world “Tanga,” the first real Latin jazz tune. It was a big band sound that, like bebop, drew from advanced harmonic concepts and hot rhythms, which inspired jazzers like Stan Kenton and youngsters like Tito Puente. The Latin big band faded in the 1960s but never died, as principal proponents like Bauza and Puente kept its flame lit. Today, a new generation is taking up that torch; leading the pack is Bobby Sanabria.

A trap-set player from New York City, who tenured in the Afro-Cuban jazz orchestra of Mario Bauza in the 1980s and ’90s, Sanabria is a propelling force who has mastered clave, the two-bar rhythmic pattern that anchors Cuban-based rhythms. On Live & in Clave the Bobby Sanabria Big Band pushes the envelope with a well-arranged book of charts that draws from a wide spectrum of influences. Recorded at Birdland, it’s a lively, upbeat performance of mambo-bop, as exemplified by “Mosscode,” a burner composed by and featuring trumpeter Michael Phillip Mossman.

With Buddy Rich’s charge, Sanabria takes command, pushing the 20-piece big band. Trombonist Chris Washburne brings gritty round tones to his “Nuyorican Son,” with special guest John Stubblefield jumping in with a solid tenor solo. There’s a cool version of “Manteca” with conga master Candido Camero in tow. The Santeria-inspired theme “Olokun/Yemaya” is a state-of-the-art original, laced with a great timba-style rendering of Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee.”

The Bobby Sanabria Big Band is keeping the Latin big-band torch burning brightly.

Originally Published