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Antonio Sanchez: The Conquering Hero

Since moving to the States from Mexico City in 1993, Antonio Sanchez has emerged as one of jazz’s foremost rhythmists

Antonio Sanchez (photo: Bill Bytsura)

Leaving home for the first time is never an easy transition, but Antonio Sanchez had to contend with more than culture shock when he moved from Mexico City to Boston in January of 1993. The 22-year-old drummer enrolled in the Berklee College of Music with a full scholarship, looking to immerse himself in jazz. He hadn’t counted on a near-biblical winter onslaught, culminating with the Storm of the Century that shut down the Eastern seaboard in mid-March. On top of homesickness, insecurity and a disconcerting dearth of good Mexican food, the icy conditions served as a constant reminder that Sanchez was in a foreign land. “I had never even seen snow in my life, and then I’m in the middle of one of the harshest winters in years,” recalls the drummer, 39. “I can’t tell you how miserable I was, away from my family, my girlfriend and my dog. I was so lonely. The good thing was that having nothing better to do than practice and play, that’s what I did.”

For Sanchez, practice, practice, practice paved the way to Carnegie Hall, and dozens of other storied theaters, halls, clubs and auditoriums, transforming him from a promising musician into a singular force. On a scene brimming with exceptional drummers on the south side of 40, Sanchez stands out as one of the most extravagantly gifted, a rhythmic muse to masters like Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Kenny Werner and Gary Burton.

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