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Sandoval Pays Tribute to Trumpet Idols

As a young boy in his native Cuba, Arturo Sandoval dreamed of learning how to play the trumpet. But when he approached a local trumpet player for lessons, he was told he had no talent and never would have. Instead of giving up, he went home and practiced. Hard.

"I played until blood came out of my mouth," Sandoval recalls in an interview with NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "That was exactly 42 years ago, and I never stopped."

The hard work paid off. Sandoval won worldwide acclaim in the 1970s with his Cuban jazz band, Irakere. He also won the admiration of Dizzy Gillespie when the American jazz trumpeter visited Cuba in 1977. While on tour with Gillespie and others in Europe in 1990, Sandoval defected to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen and now lives in Miami.

Today, Sandoval is considered perhaps the finest trumpeter in the world. His virtuosity is on full display in his newest album, Trumpet Evolution, a tribute to the history of his instrument. For each of the album's 19 compositions, Sandoval adopted the unique style of playing of an influential trumpeter that has gone before him. From Joseph "King" Oliver's Dipper Mouth Blues to Wynton Marsalis' Later, Sandoval swings his way through the history of horn blowing.

"It was very, very difficult to get the real feeling of each of 19 different individuals with different sounds, different styles, different feelings and different instruments," Sandoval says. "All of them are completely different."

To prepare for the project, Sandoval extensively researched the different styles and techniques of his trumpeting idols. Except for Manteca, which he'd often performed with his good friend Gillespie, Sandoval had never before publicly played any of the album's songs. Each composition was recorded using different ensembles in Los Angeles and Miami in an effort to achieve just the right mix of styles and instruments to represent a particular artist.

"I admire and respect all of those trumpet players," Sandoval says. "They are heroes, my heroes, and every trumpet player's heroes. It was nice to pay tribute to all of them in one record."

Trumpet Evolution is slated for release May 6.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Weekend Edition Saturday
As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.