Toni Basanta on Bobby Sanabria

From All Music

Edition, adaptation  and comments by Toni Basanta in Fairfax, Vermont, USA

Drummer, percussionist, conductor and educator BOBBY SANABRIA  has long been part of New York’s vibrant Latin Jazz Club scene.

The multi-talented SANABRIA  grew up in the tough South Bronx.

While attending a TITO PUENTE concert when he was 17, he slipped backstage and asked the legendary percussionist if he could sit in. He did, and this experience spurred him on to make Latin Jazz his career path.

He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in 1979. Shortly after graduation, Sanabria formed his group Ascensión.

Sanabria was honored with a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1983.

He was a featured performer on the Mambo Kings movie soundtrack, and he recorded with Maestro Mario Bauzá & his Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra on Bauzá’s Tanga album and three others.

His TV work includes a public television documentary on the life of  percussionist Ramon “Mongo” Santamaria, the composer of  AFROBLUE,  and an appearance on The Bill Cosby Show.

A teacher, writer, arranger, bandleader, studio musician, and producer, SANABRIA’s love for Latin Jazz music knows no bounds. He sees it as part of his mission to continue to educate the public about the wonders of this percussive, often very dance-oriented music. He has performed and lectured for thousands of New York City public school students, teachers, and families as part of the city-run Arts Exposure Program.

Sanabria has written articles for Modern Drummer Magazine and has been featured  in several interviews.

Since forming his own group after graduating from Berklee, Sanabria has performed with most of the major figures in modern Latin Jazz, including Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Chico Freeman, Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Daniel Ponce, Michael Gibbs, Phil Wilson, Mario Bauza, Marco Rizo, Michael Phillip Mossman, Chris Washburne, Larry Harlow, Nueva Manteca  and Dizzy Gillespie.

In November 1993, Chicago-based Flying Fish Records (owned by Rounder Records) released New York City Ache !, an album that includes special guests Puente and D’Rivera.

His debut for the Flying Fish label even included a glossary of Latin Jazz terms in the liner notes.

Released in 2000, Bobby Sanabria’s Afro-Cuban Dream: Live and in Clave ! marked his next official solo album. Recorded live in Birdland Jazz Club, it captured his exotic rhythmic Jazz feel in its finest form, and was soon followed up with a collaboration with Quarteto Aché in 2002.

Subsequently in the new millennium, Bobby Sanabria’s albums as leader have included Big Band Urban Folktales (2007) ft. Jazz singer Charenee Wade, Kenya Revisited Live !!!!! The Music of Mario Bauza and Rene Hernandez (2009), and Tito Puente Masterworks Live !!!!! (2011), the latter two featuring SANABRIA conducting the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra.

In addition to his work in Latin Jazz education and recording, he continues to perform at clubs and festivals around the world. Another seminal album is MULTIVERSE, featuring La Bruja (rapper), and solid  Salsa and Jazz warriors based in NYC, appeared in 2012.

All these aforementioned masterpieces have appeared in my radio shows since 2001, first in Havana, Cuba where I made friends with BOBBY and his  Quarteto Aché  feat. Boris Koslov (bass), John di Martino (piano) and Jay Collins (reeds)  at  “La Zorra y El Cuervo” JAZZ CLUB,  where I worked  as an MC and producer between 1999 and 2001.




Toni Basanta

DJ Host of The Cuban Bridge on the radio and on television

HAVANA FAIRFAX CONNECTION is our new TV show @ LCATV in Colchester, VT

Both TV shows can be seen from your own computers via





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