The Checkout: Drummer Antonio Sanchez on Migration, 'Birdman' and His Curtailed Gymnastic Career

Jul 27, 2017

Before he became one of the most sought-after drummers of his generation, Antonio Sanchez was in Mexico City, training to be a top gymnast.  While mastering his floor routine – and destroying his young body in the process – he picked up drum sticks and his focus shifted to music.

At the Berklee College of Music, under the tutelage of the legendary Hal Crook, Sanchez found his true calling: jazz. (Crook quickly recognized his massive talent, though he said Sanchez sounded “too clean.”)

In short order, Sanchez's crisp, precise style led to work with pianist Danilo Pérez, and then multireedist Paquito D’Rivera, who recommended Sanchez to tour with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra. With that band, Sanchez got the call from guitarist Pat Metheny.

He has since toured and recorded Metheny in bands both large and small: the Pat Metheny Group, the Pat Metheny Trio, the Unity Band, the Orchestrion project and most recently a quartet. And along the way, Sanchez racked up multiple Grammy Awards. Yet his biggest claim to fame is the solo drum score he composed and performed for the Academy Award-winning film Birdman (He won a Grammy for that too).


 Sanchez and his band, Migration, will perform at this year's Newport Jazz Festival. For the most hassle-free way to the festival, book your bus and ticket package from Newark, Manhattan, Brooklyn or Boston.

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