Bobby Sanabria

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

Bobby Sanabria is an American drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, educator of Puerto Rican descent who specializes in jazz and Latin jazz. An 8X Grammy nominee as a leader, he is the musical director of Quarteto Aché, Sexteto Ibiano, Ascensión, and his Multiverse Big Band. Sanabria is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. Seven of Sanabria's albums have been nominated for a Grammy Award: Afro-Cuban Dream: Live & In Clave!!! (2000), 50 Years of Mambo - A Tribute To Damaso Prado (2003), Big Band Urban Folktales (2007) Kenya Revisited Live!!! (2009), Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! (2011), Multiverse - nominated for two Grammys (2012), West Side Story Reimagined (2018).


Sanabria was born in the South Bronx where he grew up in the Melrose Housing Projects. He is of Puerto Rican ancestry as both of his parents are from the island but met and married in the Bronx.

He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston from 1975 to 1979 where for a time he studied drums and was mentored with then faculty member Keith Copeland stating, "Keith changed my life. He made me the professional drummer I am today." He received his B.M and the Faculty Association Award for his work as an instrumentalist graduating in 1979.[1] He received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983 and was a featured performer on the Mambo Kings film soundtrack. He also appeared on The Bill Cosby Show with the Mario Bauzá Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra.

Sanabria has appeared over the years in many New York City public schools as well as all over the world teaching about and performing Latin jazz. He has written articles for Modern Drummer, DRUM!, Traps, Highlights In Percussion, and has written liner notes for many albums. He has composed music for the documentary films From Mambo To Hip Hop - A South Bronx Tale (2007) and Some Girls (2017).[1] He currently teaches the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra's at the Manhattan School of Music and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. He has been featured in such publications as the New York Times, The New York Daily News, Modern Drummer, Rhythm, DRUM!, Jazz Times, Jazziz, and Downbeat Magazine.

He has performed and recorded three CD's (2 Grammy nominated) with the acknowledged creator of Afro-Cuban jazz - Mario Bauzá, as well as artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría (with whom he started his career), Chico Freeman, Paquito D'Rivera, Yomo Toro, Candido, The Mills Brothers, Ray Barretto, Chico O'Farrill, Francisco Aguabella, Henry Threadgill, Luis "Perico" Ortiz, Daniel Ponce, Larry Harlow, Daniel Santos, Celia Cruz, Adalberto Santiago, Xiomara Portuondo, Pedrito Martinez, Roswell Rudd, Patato, David Amram, the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, the WDR Big Band, Michael Gibbs, Charles McPherson, Jon Faddis, Bob Mintzer, Phil Wilson, Randy Brecker, Charles Tolliver, M'BOOM, Michelle Shocked, and Marco Rizo. He has guest conducted and performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras.

Sanabria's first CD as a leader, NYC Aché, released in 1993 on the Flying Fish Label featured a series of percussion duets between him and his mentor Tito Puente, as well as a guest appearance by NEA Jazz Master Paquito D'Rivera on clarinet receiving critical acclaim[citation needed] and featured Sanabria not only on drumset but also vibes, congas, bongó, and percussion. It was a National Association of Independent Record Distributors Award winner (NAIRD) for best recording.[citation needed] In 2000 his Afro-Cuban Dream - Live & In Clave!!! CD with his own big band received worldwide critical acclaim for its forward thinking approach to the art of the big band and received a Grammy nomination. Quarteto Aché in 2003 was hailed a "classic" by Modern Drummer Magazine showcasing him in a small group context. 50 Years of Mambo - A Tribute to Perez Prado, another big band recording, received a Grammy nomination in 2004. Big Band Urban Folktales followed in 2007 again receiving a Grammy nomination and also becoming the first Latin jazz CD to chart at #1 on the Jazz Weekly National Chart. With the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra he has recorded two Grammy-nominated albums: Kenya Revisited Live!!! (2009) and Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! (2011). In 2012 Multiverse, again with his big band featuring original music as well as compositions by Don Ellis and Frank Zappa, was nominated for two Grammy Awards: Best Latin Jazz Recording and Best Instrumental Arrangement - Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite for Ellington. He was featured in the BBC documentary West Side Stories - The Making Of a Classic (2017). His current CD, released in July 2018 on the Jazzheads label, West Side Story Reimagined, is an ambitious Latin jazz treatment of the entire score of Leonard Bernstein's masterpiece, West Side Story interpreted by his 21 piece Multiverse Big Band in celebration of the Maestro's centennial (2018) and the shows recent 60th birthday (2017). Like all of his other big band CD's it has been nominated for a Grammy in the Latin jazz category. The majority of the proceeds form the sale of the double CD set goes to the Jazz Foundation of America's Puerto Rican Hurricane relief Fund to aid the musicians on the island. Receiving worldwide critical acclaim and again the #1 spot on the JazzWeek charts Will Friedwald of the Wall St. Journal wrote in his review of the CD, "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."[citation needed]

He has been producer, consultant and featured on air personality in the documentaries The Palladium: Where Mambo Was King (2003), From Mambo to Hip Hop - A South Bronx Tale (2006) where he also composed the musical score, Latin Music U.S.A. (2009), We Like It Like That - The Story of Latin Boogaloo (2016), the BBC documentary West Side Stories - The Making Of a Classic (2017). He composed the musical score for the documentary Some Girls (2017). He and a reduced version of his big band are featured in episode 4 of the hit TV series, The Marvelous Mrs. Mazel (2018). He recently was awarded the 2018 LeJends of Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as a musician and educator in the field of Latin jazz by the Jazz Education Network. He is an endorser of TAMA Drums, Sabian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks, Remo Drumheads, and LP Percussion. He is the new host of the Latin Jazz Cruise weekly radio show on WBGO FM Jazz 88


As leader[edit]

  • 1993 - ¡New York City Ache! featuring Tito Puente and Paquito D'Rivera *NAIRD Award Winner
  • 2000 - Afro-Cuban Dream: Live and in Clave (Arabesque) *Grammy nominated
  • 2002 - Bobby Sanabria & ¡Quarteto Aché! (Zoho)
  • 2003 - 50 Years of Mambo: A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado - Mambo All-Stars Orchestra (Mambo Maniacs) *Latin Grammy nominated
  • 2007 - Big Band Urban Folktales - Bobby Sanabria Big Band (Jazzheads) *Grammy nominated
  • 2007 - Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro featuring Bobby Sanabria & Ascensión, El Espiritu Jibaro (Sunnyside)
  • 2009 - Kenya Revisited Live!!! – Bobby Sanabria conducting the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (Jazzheads) *Latin Grammy nominated
  • 2011 - Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! – Bobby Sanabria conducting the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (Jazzheads) *Latin Grammy nominated
  • 2012 - Multiverse, featuring La Bruja and Chareneè Wade (Jazzheads) *Double Grammy nominated
  • 2018 - West Side Story Reimagined - Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band - released July 20, 2018 (Jazzheads) *Grammy nominated

As sideman[edit]

  • Mongo Santamaria, Mongo Magic, 1983
  • Mongo Santamaria, Espiritu Libre, 1984
  • Luis Perico Ortiz - Breaking The Rules, 1986
  • 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
  • Michael Philip Mossman, Mama Soho, 1995
  • Jorge Sylvester, Musicollage, 1996
  • Daniel Schnyder, Tarantula, 1997
  • Sekou Sundiata, Blue Oneness of Dreams, 1997
  • Michael Philip Mossman, Spring Dance, 1997
  • Charles McPherson, Manhattan Nocturne, 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
  • Viento De Agua, De Puerto Rico Al Mundo, 1998
  • Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, Nuyorican Nights, 1998
  • 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
  • Hilary Noble, - Noble Savage, 2002
  • Joe Chambers, Urban Grooves, 2002
  • David Gonzalez, City of Dreams, 2002
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, No Nonsense, 2002
  • Larry Harlow & His Latin Jazz Encounter, Live at Birdland, 2002
  • Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, The Other Side 2003
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, No Nonsense 2003
  • Joe Chambers, Urban Grooves, 2003
  • Joe Chambers, The Outlaw, 2006
  • Charles McPherson, Manhattan Nocturne, 2006
  • Cándido, Hands of Fire, 2007
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, Up And Running, 2007
  • Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro featuring Bobby Sanabria & Ascensión, El Espiritu Jibaro, 2007
  • 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
  • Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, Land of Nod, 2013
  • Ben Lapidus, Ochosi Blues, 2014
  • Eugene Marlow, Changes, 2015
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, Like It Is, 2015
  • Eli Fountain, Percussion Discussion, Masterpiece, 2015
  • 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 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)


  1. ^ a b Skelly, Richard. "Bobby Sanabria: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 22 October 2011.

External links[edit]