I got to see Arturo Sandoval last night at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, and it was nothing short of amazing.
I had been a fan of Arturo's dazzling technique and otherworldly high chops on the trumpet since I heard his work with the legendary Cuban group Irakere and his American debut, Flight to Freedom, recorded shortly after he defected to the States, but this was my first time to see him in person, and all I can say is...wow.
His trumpet prowess is, as I said, quite well-known, but he also plays wonderful jazz piano (even recording an entire CD of piano music) and scats like nobody's business. The scatting was quite impressive, because it was somewhat unexpected; if he's done that on a recording, it's not one I've heard. He did quite an extended scat section--sometimes doing so through the horn--with the highlight being when he pretended to do a "bass" solo. He is also an accomplished percussionist, playing solid timbales throughout the night.
But not only is Arturo a wonderful musician, he's also a fine showman, getting the crowd energized all night and being pretty much a perpetual-motion machine. There was hardly a time when he wasn't doing something, be it playing trumpet, piano, percussion, singing, scatting and encouraging everyone to get up and dance. He really is the whole package. (Oh yeah, and he also traded fours with his iPod for a minute! Really--he put it up to the mic; it blared some sort of rap song in Spanish, and then the band came in with their version. Totally hilarious...)
His backing band was also a fine musical unit; special kudos go out to percussionist Tomasito Cruz, who tore it up all night on the congas, and, on a softer number, did some of the most inspired maraca playing I've ever heard (seriously--I never thought I'd be typing that sentence either, but you had to be there).
The warm afternoon gave way to a chilly night, with a brisk north wind blowing over the lawn of the outdoor stage, but at least it was better than a year ago, when he was scheduled to perform and got rained out. We may have been cold on the outside, but the music was definitely hot.
And just think--this whole festival is free. Tower of Power is tonight; review to follow.