Bobby Sanabria

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Bobby Sanabria
Born (1957-06-02) June 2, 1957 (age 65)
South Bronx, New York City, U.S.
GenresJazz, Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, Brazilian jazz, World music
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger, producer, educator
Instrument(s)Drums, percussion

Bobby Sanabria (born June 2, 1957) is an American drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, producer, educator, radio show host of Puerto Rican descent who specializes in jazz and Latin jazz.


Sanabria was born in New York City on June 2, 1957.[1] He graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 1979 with his Bachelor of Music.[1] Sanabria has appeared over the years all over the world teaching about and performing Latin jazz.[1] He has written articles for Modern Drummer,[1] DRUM, Downbeat, Traps, and is a regular contributor to the WBGO website and written liner notes for over 50 CD releases. He has been featured in Downbeat, The New York Times, New York Daily News, Modern Drummer, Drum, Percussion, NPR, and NPR Latino USA.

His albums Afro-Cuban Dream: Live and in Clave, Big Band Urban Folktales, Multiverse, and West Side Story Reimagined were all nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album.[2] West Side Story Reimagined also won the Jazz Journalists Award for Best Jazz Album of 2019. He is the radio host of the Latin Jazz Cruise on listener supported WBGO 88.3 FM broadcasting from Newark, NJ and

The Wall Street Journal reviewer Will Friedwald wrote, “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.”[3]

Known as a drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, conductor, documentary film producer, educator, activist, and bandleader, his versatility as both a drummer and percussionist, from small group to big band, has become legendary. A native son of the South Bronx born to Puerto Rican parents, he has performed and recorded with every major figure in the world of Latin jazz and salsa, from the founder of the Afro-Cuban/Latin jazz movement Mario Bauzá, to Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Dizzy Gillespie, Chico O’Farrill, Ray Barretto, Candido, to Larry Harlow, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, and jazz luminaries as diverse as Henry Threadgill, Charles McPherson, Randy Brecker, Joe Chambers, Jean Lucien, The Mills Brothers, and others. 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 was a recipient of the 2018 Jazz Education Network (JEN) LeJENS of Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as a musician and educator. In 2008 Congressman Dennis Kucinich honored his work as a musician and educator by reading his name into the Congressional Record and in 2018 the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus honored him as a musician, educator. Every single one of his big band recordings, seven in total, have been nominated for Grammys. His 2018 recording, West Side Story Reimagined, reached #1 on the national Jazz Week radio charts, was nominated for a 2018 Grammy, and won the prestigious 2019 Record of The Year Award from the Jazz Journalists Association. Partial proceeds from sales of this double CD set go to the Jazz Foundation of America’s Puerto Rico Relief Fund for musicians. He is the Co-Artistic Director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center and the forthcoming Bronx Music Hall. His lifetime dedication to spreading the history, culture, of jazz and Latin jazz to the general public as a performer, as well as educating a new generation of players, composers, arrangers, has no parallel. A member of Max Roach’s legendary M’BOOM percussion ensemble, he is on the faculty of the New School (his 26th year) and NYU and was on the faculty of the Manhattan School fo Music for 20 years. He is also the on air host of the Latin Jazz Cruise on WBGO FM and, the number one jazz station in the nation.

Maestro Sanabria has been recently honored by Lehman College by being bestowed an Honorary Doctorate in Music.

He endorses TAMA drums, Sabian cymbals, Latin Percussion Inc. instruments, Remo drum heads, and Vic Firth sticks and mallets


As leader[edit]

  • 1993 - ¡New York City Ache!
  • 2000 - Afro-Cuban Dream: Live and in Clave!!! (Arabesque)
  • 2002 - Bobby Sanabria & ¡Quarteto Aché! (Zoho Music)
  • 2003 - 50 Years of Mambo: A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado (Mambo Maniacs)
  • 2006 - El Espiritu Jibaro Roswell Rudd and Yomo Toro featuring Bobby Sanabria & Ascensión
  • 2007 - Big Band Urban Folktales
  • 2009 - Kenya Revisited Live!!! (Jazzheads)
  • 2011 - Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! (Jazzheads)
  • 2012 - Multiverse
  • 2018 - West Side Story Reimagined

As sideman[edit]

  • Mongo Santamaria, Mongo Magic, 1983
  • Mongo Santamaria, Espiritu Libre, 1984
  • Luis Perico Ortiz - Breaking The Rules, 1987
  • Yomo Toro - Gracias, 1990
  • Mario Bauzá, Tanga Suite, 1991
  • The Mambo Kings Soundtrack, 1992
  • Mario Bauzá – My Time is Now, 1992
  • Paquito D'Rivera and the United Nations Orchestra, A Night in Englewood, 1993
  • Mario Bauzá, 944 Columbus, 1993
  • Carola Grey, The Age Of Illusions, 1994
  • Spider Saloff, Sextet, 1995
  • Michael Philip Mossman, Spring Dance, 1995
  • Jorge Sylvester, Musicollage, 1996
  • Daniel Schnyder, Tarantula, 1996
  • Sekou Sundiata, The Blue Oneness of Dreams, 1997
  • Frank London, Debt, 1997
  • Cuba: I Am Time, 1997
  • Michael Philip Mossman, Mama Soho, 1998
  • Ford Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival. 1998
  • Charles McPherson, Manhattan Nocturne, 1998
  • Men with Guns (Hombres Armados) Soundtrack, 1998
  • Larry Harlow, Larry Harlow's Latin Legends Band, 1998
  • John Fedchock, On the Edge, 1998
  • William Cepeda, Afrorican Jazz… My Roots and Beyond, 1998
  • Mario Bauzá, Messidor's Finest, 1998
  • Jerome Van Rossum Diplomatic Immunity, 1998
  • Viento De Agua, De Puerto Rico Al Mundo, 1998
  • Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, Nuyorican Nights, 1998
  • Cuba, I Am Time, Vol. 4: Cubano Jazz, 1999
  • Jorge Sylvester, In the Ear of the Beholder, 2000
  • Ray Barretto, Portraits In Jazz & Clave, 2000
  • Sekou Sundiata, Long Story Short, 2000
  • Eugenia León, Acercate Mas, 2000
  • Ray Barretto & New World Spirit, Trancedance, 2001
  • Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, The Other Side 2001
  • Donato Póveda, Bohemio Enamorado 2002
  • Hilary Noble, Noble Savage, 2002
  • Joe Chambers, Urban Grooves, 2002
  • David Gonzalez, City of Dreams, 2002
  • NewYorkestra Big Band Urban Soundscapes, 2002
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, No Nonsense, 2002
  • Larry Harlow & His Latin Jazz Encounter, Live at Birdland, 2002
  • Chris Washburne & The SYTOS Band, Paradise In Trouble 2003
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, No Nonsense 2003
  • Joe Chambers, Urban Grooves, 2003
  • Lou Caputo, Urban Still Life, 2003
  • Ray Barretto & New World Spirit, Time Was, Time Is, 2005
  • Joe Chambers, The Outlaw, 2006
  • Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, The Land of Nod, 2006
  • Charles McPherson, Manhattan Nocturne, 2006
  • Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro featuring Bobby Sanabria & Ascensión, El Espiritu Jibaro, 2006
  • Cándido, Hands of Fire, 2007
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, Up And Running, 2007
  • Arturo O'Farrill & Friends Play The Music of Eugene Marlow, A Wonderful Discovery, 2007
  • Inza Bama, House Of Bamba, 2008
  • Sooz, I Wanna Iguana, 2010
  • Gabriele Tranchina, A Song of Love's Color, 2010
  • Eugene Marlow, Celebrations: The Heritage Ensemble Interprets Festive Melodies from the Hebraic Songbook, 2010
  • Eugene Marlow, A Fresh Take, 2011
  • Eugene Marlow, Hitz & Pizz: A Rhythm Extravaganza, 2011
  • Susan Goodman Jackson, Live Out Loud, 2012
  • Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, Land of Nod, 2013
  • Ben Lapidus, Ochosi Blues, 2014
  • Eugene Marlow, Mosaica, 2014
  • Art Lillard's Heavenly Big Band, Certain Relationships, 2015
  • Eugene Marlow, Changes, 2015
  • Max Pollack, Rumba Tap, 2015
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, Like It Is, 2015
  • Eli Fountain, Percussion Discussion, Masterpiece, 2015
  • Pucci Amanda Jhones, Love Jones, 2015
  • Eugene Marlow, A Night So Silent Night, 2016
  • Eugene Marlow, Obrigado Brasil, 2016
  • Eugene Marlow, Blue In Green, Original Compositions by Eugene Marlow inspired by The Jazz Poems of Grace Schulman, 2019
  • The Afro-Caribbean Artistry of Bobby Sanabria & Matthew Gonzalez, 2019
  • David Child's, Child's Play, 2020
  • Rie Akagi, La Flauta Magica, 2020
  • Gabriela Anders, Los Dukes, A Latina Tribute To Duke Ellington, 2021
  • Mary LaRose, Out There, 2021
  • Eugenie Jones, Players, 2022
  • The Manhattan Transfer, 50, 2022


  • The Palladium Where Mambo Was King - associate producer, on screen personality (Kaufman Films, BRAVO 2002)
  • From Mambo To Hip Hop - A South Bronx Tale - associate producer, on screen personality, composer of soundtrack (Citylore, PBS 2006)
  • Latin Music U.S.A. - assistant producer, on screen personality (PBS 2009)
  • We Like It That - The Story of Latin Boogaloo - on screen personality (Citylore, 2015)
  • Let's Get The Rhythm - on screen personality (Citylore, 2016)
  • Some Girls - composer of soundtrack (Cepeda Films, 2017)
  • La Madrina - The Savage Life of Lorine Padilla - composer of soundtrack (Cepeda Films, 2020)


  1. ^ a b c d Skelly, Richard. "Bobby Sanabria: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  2. ^ "Grammy Award Results for Bobby Sanabria". Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  3. ^ The Wall Street Journal July 16, 2018

External links[edit]