Bobby Sanabria - drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist, producer, filmmaker, conductor, educator, multi-cultural warrior and multiple Grammy nominee – has performed with a veritable Who's Who in the world of jazz and Latin music, as well as with his own critically acclaimed ensembles. His diverse recording and performing experience includes work with such legendary figures as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Paquito D'Rivera, Charles McPherson, Mongo Santamaría, Ray Barretto, Marco Rizo, Arturo Sandoval, Roswell Rudd, Chico O'Farrill, Candido, Yomo Toro, Francisco Aguabella, Larry Harlow, Henry Threadgill, and the Godfather of Afro-Cuban Jazz, Mario Bauzá.
Bobby, the son of Puerto Rican parents, was born and raised in the "Fort Apache" section of New York City's South Bronx. Inspired and encouraged by maestro Tito Puente, another fellow New York-born Puerto Rican, Bobby "got serious" and attended Boston's Berklee College of Music from 1975 to 1979, obtaining a Bachelor of Music degree and receiving their prestigious Faculty Association Award for his work as an instrumentalist. Since his graduation, Bobby has become a leader in the Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and jazz fields as both a drummer and percussionist, and is recognized as one of the most articulate musician-scholars of la tradición living today.
He has been featured on numerous Grammy-nominated albums, including The Mambo Kings and other movie soundtracks, as well as numerous television and radio work. Mr. Sanabria was the drummer with the legendary "Father of the Afro-Cuban Jazz movement," Mario Bauzá's Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. With them he recorded three CD's (two of which were Grammy-nominated) which are considered to be definitive works of the Afro-Cuban big-band jazz tradition. Mr. Sanabria was also featured with the orchestra in two PBS documentaries about Bauzá and also appeared on the Bill Cosby show performing with the orchestra. He also appeared and performed prominently in a PBS documentary on the life of Mongo Santamaria and on camera in the CBS television movie, Rivkin: Bounty Hunter.
In 1993 Bobby and his octet Ascensión released ¡NYC Aché! on Flying Fish Records (now available on Rounder Records). It received worldwide acclaim and garnered four and half stars in Down Beat magazine, as well as receiving a nomination for Best Record of the Year by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD). In June 2000 Bobby released Afro-Cuban Dream... Live & In Clave!!! on the Arabesque label. Recorded live at Birdland in New York City, it features Bobby powering a big band of twenty all-stars. Critically acclaimed worldwide, it has been hailed by both the jazz and Latin music cognoscenti as a masterpiece, and was nominated for a mainstream Grammy as the Best Latin Jazz Album of 2001. Afro-Cuban Dream...Live & In Clave!!! was also nominated for the Jazz Journalists Association 2001 Award for the Best Afro-Cuban Jazz Album of the Year.
His next recording, ¡Quarteto Aché!, released in 2002, on the ZOHO label, documented Bobby's virtuosity in a small group setting and was hailed a "classic" by Modern Drummer magazine and critically acclaimed by the New York Times. It was also nominated for Best Latin Jazz recording of 2003 by the Jazz Journalists Association. He also received a second Grammy nomination in 2003 for, 50 Years of Mambo - A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado.
Bobby and his Quarteto Aché toured Armenia in June of 2007 being personally invited by the U.S. Embassy to represent the United States in a series of concerts. Headlining in the final event, The Cascade Jazz festival in Yerevan, Armenia's capitol, the group received a thunderous ovation from the estimated 8,000 person audience which was broadcast throughout the country. His group has the unique distinction and honor of being the first ensemble ever to perform Latino oriented jazz in this country and spread clave consciousness in a unique master class that he held at the Yerevan Conservatory.
Bobby's recording project, Big Band Urban Folktales, on the Jazzheads label, was nominated for a mainstream Grammy in 2008 for best Latin Jazz recording his third nomination. It is proving to be his most lauded work and garnered critical acclaim for its futuristic approach to the Latin jazz big band canon. Big Band Urban Folktales also won the 2008 Jazz Journalists Award for Best Latin Jazz Recording of 2008.