Bobby Sanabria

Host, Latin Jazz Cruise

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.

Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

Johnny Pacheco’s recent passing rocked the Latin music community. Without him, salsa would never have coalesced, been codified, and spread throughout the world.

Fania Records

Johnny Pacheco, a seminal figure in Cuban-based dance music as it is played in New York City, died on Feb. 15 at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, N.J. He was 85.


The arc of Eddie Palmieri’s career is profound. A pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader; 10-time Grammy winner (including a Lifetime Achievement Latin Grammy); and as an NEA Jazz Master, a recipient of the nation’s highest award given to a living jazz musician, Palmieri is a true legend.

Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

Candido Camero, a virtuoso percussionist who had a major hand — or more precisely, two of them — in the development of Afro-Cuban music, died today at his home in New York City.  He was 99.

Willie Torres, whose bell-like tone and nimble phrasing helped make him one of the most recorded singers in Latin music, died at South Lake Hospital in Claremont, Fla. on Aug. 13. He was 90. 

Jorge Santana, who died on May 14, left behind an impressive but often undervalued body of work.

He was a formidable guitarist, and while he never received the same attention as his older brother, Carlos, he deserves much wider recognition. This selection of tracks is a good place to start.

Jorge Santana, a guitarist known for his central role in the Latin rock band Malo, as well as his collaborations with the Fania All Stars, died on May 14. He was 68.

His older brother, Carlos Santana, announced his death on Facebook. The family said Jorge died of natural causes.

Tom Pich

After our Deep Dive into Candido Camero, we wanted to provide a highlight reel of recommended listening.

The recent passing of Nuyorican pianist Professor Joe Torres reminds us that the important role of a sideman is all too often ignored.

A first-class accompanist who was revered by his colleagues for his ability to add sabor (flavor) and drive, he was also respected for his sight-reading skills.

Allen Spatz

Professor Joe Torres, a pianist who came to the public’s attention with salsa bandleader and trombonist Willie Colón, died on Monday at a senior home in the Bronx. He was 76.

Percussionist José Mangual, Jr., a close friend and longtime band mate, said he died of natural causes.

Allen Spatz

The Holy Trinity of Afro-Cuban bass consists of two Cubans, Israel “Cachao” López and Bobby Rodríguez, and one Nuyorican, Andy González.

Last week, González died at 69 in his home borough, The Bronx.

J. Elon Goodman / courtesy of Truth Revolution Records

Andy González, who died on April 9 in the Bronx, was a bassist who followed in the footsteps of seminal Latin players like Israel “Cachao” López and Bobby Rodriguez, eventually joining their ranks as one of the most important figures on the instrument.

John Brathwaite

As a bandleader or as a sideman, percussionist Ray Mantilla, who died Saturday at 85, always provided a boost. Here are seven performances that really achieve liftoff. 

Ray Mantilla, a percussionist and bandleader who led a prolific jazz career for more than half a century, died on Saturday, at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. He was 85.  

Chris Tobin / WBGO

Roberto Fonseca comes from a storied lineage of Cuban pianists.

That pantheon runs from Damaso Pérez Prado to Lilí Martínez to Chucho Valdés to Emiliano Salvador to dozens of others.

Miles Davis led such a prismatic and changeable career that any attempt at summation is destined to feel incomplete.

But the 2019 documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool does an impressive job of it, portraying the trumpeter in his myriad phases and moods, and in an unvarnished yet sympathetic light.

Isaac Brekken / WireImage/Getty

Ray Santos, a saxophonist, composer, arranger rightly known to Latin music fans as “El Maestro,” died on Oct. 17. He was 90.

Andy Eulau

Saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist Gene Jefferson — one of the finest human beings and greatest musicians I have ever known — died on Wednesday at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y, of complications from vascular dementia. He was 88.