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The Arturo Sandoval Diaries Part 2

Arrival in Mumbai, a dream fulfilled

Sunil Sampat Nov 29, 2019

Arturo Sandoval. Photo: Courtesy of Perfect Relations

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Arturo Sandoval turned 70 earlier this month. He has been at the pinnacle of his career for some years now. I forget how many Grammys he has under his belt… 12, 13, 14 – I keep losing count. I don’t think he is counting either – all he wanted to do was be free to play jazz – and he has done that superbly well!

Sandoval’s guiding light, his hero; his mentor was the legendary Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy was also instrumental in getting Sandoval out of Cuba. Under the communist government of Fidel Castro when the national mood was aggressively anti-American, jazz was banned to the extent that it was criminal to even hear that music. Sandoval actually served a three-month jail sentence for merely listening to jazz on his radio!

Gillespie had been a United Nations music ambassador and had met Sandoval in Havana during an official visit. Later, Gillespie formed a United Nations Jazz Orchestra where he invited Sandoval. The jazz musician was permitted by the Cuban government to join the band, went to Europe to play and never returned to Cuba. Jazz followers are fortunate to get to hear him and Sandoval has become a jazz legend.

Gillespie had come to India for a three-city concert series in 1985 and had told Sandoval to also try and visit this country.  After this it was always on Sandoval’s wish list to come to India; this wish is now fulfilled.

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When he arrived at Mumbai airport after a very long flight, he didn’t appear tired or jet-lagged! He was quite starry-eyed with wonderment at his surroundings and was smoking a cigar! When we met at Mumbai airport, he seemed to remember me from the time we met in 2017 at Yoshi’s jazz club in Oakland, California and I interviewed him for Rolling Stone India. This encounter with Sandoval ultimately led to his NCPA concert series. I said to him, “You received Dizzy at the docks in Havana when he visited there; now I am here receiving you in Mumbai.” I got a warm hug in response.

Sandoval has released an album called To Diz with Love, a lovely tribute to his Guru. In the album, he sings on a tune where he says, “Every day I think of you.” True love and respect for Gillespie – one I share with him. Dizzy will be happy that Arturo has finally made it to India.

To be continued…

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