Bobby Sanabria is an eight time Grammy-nominee as a leader, drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, conductor, documentary film producer, educator, activist, and bandleader. A native son of the South Bronx born to Puerto Rican parents, he has performed and recorded with such legends as Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Dizzy Gillespie, Chico O’Farrill, Ray Barretto, Cándido, Henry Threadgill, Larry Harlow, and the Godfather of Afro-Cuban jazz, Mario Bauzá.
His debut solo CD (1993), ¡NYC Aché!, won the National Institute of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD) Award. Live & In Clave!!! (2000) was nominated for a Grammy bringing Mr. Sanabria worldwide acclaim for his forward thinking 21st century vision in the big band tradition. In 2003, 50 Years of Mambo - The Big Band Music of Perez Prado, was nominated for a Latin Grammy. Big Band Urban Folktales (2007 Grammy nominated), was the first Latin jazz recording to ever reach #1 in the national Jazz Week charts. In 2009, the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra he directs at the Manhattan School of Music was nominated for a Latin Grammy for its tribute to Mario Bauzá and Machito for Kenya Revisited Live!!!, a reworking of Machito’s greatest album, Kenya. In 2011, Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!!, by the same orchestra was nominated for a Latin Jazz Grammy. His big band recording, MULTIVERSE, (2012), inspired by the writings of Mexican author Octavio Paz, was nominated for 2 Grammy’s (Best Latin Jazz Recording and Best Instrumental Arrangement).
Mr. Sanabria’s activism to reinstate the Latin Jazz category after NARAS decided to eliminate many ethnic and regional categories in 2010, was successful receiving worldwide attention. DRUM! Magazine named him Percussionist of the Year (2005); he was named Percussionist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2011 and 2013. In 2006, he was inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame. He holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the Berklee College of Music and is on the faculty of the New School and the Manhattan School of Music where he conducts Afro-Cuban jazz big bands.
Bobby is an associate producer and on screen personality of the documentaries, The Palladium: Where Mambo Was King, winner of the IMAGINE award for Best Cable TV documentary (2003), PBS’, From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale, winner of the American Latino Media Arts Award/ALMA for Best Documentary (2006), Latin Music USA (2009) for PBS and, I Like It Like That - The Story of Latin Boogaloo (2017). He was a recipient of the 2018 Jazz Education Network (JEN) LeJENS of Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as both a musician and educator in the field of Latin jazz. In 2018 the Congressional Black Caucus in the U.S. Congress honored him as a musician, educator.
His 2018 recording, ‘West Side Story Reimagined,' reached #1 on the national Jazz Week radio charts and has been nominated for a 2018 Grammy. ‘West Side Story Reimagined’ is a monumental reworking of the entire score of Leonard Bernstein’s masterpiece in celebration of his centennial and the recent 60th anniversary of the legendary Broadway show. Partial proceeds from sales of the recording go to the Jazz Foundation of America’s Puerto Rico Relief Fund for musicians. The Wall Street Journal’s Will Friedwald writes, “There’s every reason to hope that Steven Spielberg’s remake of ‘West Side Story’ will improve upon the 1961 film, but I doubt if we’ll ever hear a more thrilling interpretation of that immortal score than that of the Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band.”
Bobby Sanabria is the Co-Artistic Director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center and the forthcoming Bronx Music Hall. His lifetime dedication to spreading the word about the history, culture, of jazz and Latin jazz music to the general public, as well as educating a new generation of players, composers, arrangers, has no parallel.