Artist Profile · David Sánchez

GRAMMY® award-winner David Sánchez is recognized around the world as one of the finest saxophonists of his generation. His mastery of the instrument is undeniable and his sound unmistakable. Combine that with Sánchez’s deep-seated knowledge of both Jazz and Latin music, and the traditions that mold them, and the results are extraordinary.

In a review, world-renown jazz writer and critic Howard Reich saluted the bandleader saying, “Sánchez’s prowess on saxophone is matched by the intellectual depth of his concept and compositions”. Reich has also noted “Technically, tonally and creatively, he seems to have it all. Recordings such as The Departure (1994), Sketches of Dreams (1995), Obsesión (1998) and Cultural Survival (2008) showed Sánchez merging jazz syntax with the musical dialects of his native Puerto Rico and other Caribbean and Latin American sources.” The influences of Puerto Rican folkloric music can be clearly heard on Street Scenes (1996), his debut album on Sony/Columbia. Strains of Bomba and Plena are also evident on Obsesión (1998) and Melaza (2000) both produced by the great saxophonist Branford Marsalis, as well as Travesía (2001), Sánchez’s first entirely self-produced recording.

It was another recording, Coral, that would earn David his fifth GRAMMY® award nomination and his first Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2005. This album features orchestrations and arrangements by prolific Argentine composer Carlos Franzetti with the City of Prague Philharmonic. The album showcases compositions by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Alberto Ginastera, Franzetti and Sánchez. allmusic.com observes “Sánchez is poised to take his place among the great jazz musicians that continue to offer important personal and musical insights to their audiences”. ‘Coral’ is a necessity for any jazz or classical record collection”.

Cultural Survival, David’s 2008 debut on Concord Records, earned the artist his sixth GRAMMY® award nomination. Two years later, Sánchez, Stefon Harris and Christian Scott came together for the Ninety Miles Project. The successful album and documentary film were recorded in Havana and featured not only the three bandleaders but also some of Cuba’s finest musicians. JAZZ Times music writer Michael J. West noted, “The saxophonist is the real star: He’s exquisite on “The Forgotten Ones,” a ballad duet with Harris, and provides romance on “This Too” and dark intrigue on the album’s one new tune, “Paradise Found.” The project would later become The Ninety Miles Band, where Harris and Sánchez would further develop their unique musical partnership.

Sánchez continues to tour the world as a bandleader, bringing his mix of mainstream jazz with Pan-African influences to audiences around the globe. Most lately, he finalized his upcoming and much anticipated recording, “Carib” (2019) featuring original compositions inspired by melodies and rhythms coming from the Afro Puerto Rican and Haitian tradition. Two pieces on this recording, “Canto” and “Fernando’s Theme”, are featured in the soundtrack of the film “Windows on The World” by Robert Mailer Anderson.

At the same time, he is also a member of the SFJazz Collective, an all-star octet representing the SFJAZZ institution. The Collective has been one of the most prolific ensembles of the last decade. It’s recognized for its stellar musicians, groundbreaking compositions and innovative takes on the music of some of the world’s most influential artist. Sánchez’s unique musical sensibility can be traced to his home, Puerto Rico, where he began playing percussion and drums at age 8.

David Sánchez migrated to tenor saxophone a few years later. While a scholar at the prestigious La Escuela Libre de Música in San Juan, he took up the flute, clarinet as well as soprano saxophone with teachers Angel Marrero and Leslie López. The Bomba and Plena rhythms of his homeland, along with Cuban, Caribbean and Brazilian traditions, were among the biggest influence on Sanchez’s early taste in music. But soon jazz masters such as Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane would command his ear and his imagination. Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson all have been also major influences. In 1988 Sánchez auditioned for and gained a music scholarship at Rutgers University. He articulates, “studying with masters such as Kenny Barron, Ted Dunbar, Larry Ridley among others, was a true blessing”. He was soon immersed in New York’s swirling Jazz scene and was quickly recruited to tour with piano giant and mentor Eddie Palmieri. He also performed with Hilton Ruiz and Claudio Roditi who brought Sánchez to the attention of Jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie.

GRAMMY® award-winner David Sánchez

In 1991, Gillespie invited the young saxophonist to join his “Live the Future” tour with Miriam Makeba. Later, having the opportunity to be a part of Gillespie’s recording, “Live At The Blue Note” Sánchez has also performed and recorded with Jazz Master and mentor, Kenny Barron (album “The Spirit Song”), Roy Haynes (album “Praise”), Charlie Haden (Grammy award winner album “Nocturne”), Roy Hargrove (Grammy award winner Album “Crisol”), Pat Metheny, Lalo Schiffrin, Danilo Pérez, Tom Harrell, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Kenny Werner, and had the opportunity to perform with the legendary drummer Elvin Jones.

David Sánchez is also “Maestro Sánchez” to students at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico. After a decade of teaching, he has proven to be a compelling presence with students and is in demand for workshops and master classes in Puerto Rico and beyond. In 2017 he helped form a new program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, The RJAM (Roots, Jazz, and American Music). Sánchez’s passion for teaching and sharing his art with up and coming musicians is palpable. He says, “It gives me such tremendous joy seeing so much talent out there. It’s a true honor to be a part of The Georgia State University School of Music faculty as the Artist in Residence in the Jazz Studies program, which provides a solid platform to help students while they strive to find their own voices. I am very optimistic and I look ahead to the future of music.”

In addition to his collaboration with the Conservatory of Puerto Rico and The Conservatory of San Francisco, Sánchez has taught master classes in Brazil, at the Peabody Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, Indiana University’s School of Music, Stanford University, University of Memphis, Emory University and completed a year-long residency at Georgia State University. Such work, he says, “gives me great satisfaction. At the same time, it’s challenge, because part of my responsibility is to provide the student with guidance by sharing my experiences, but also understanding that it’s their own journey. In the process, as instructors, we also learn. You give, but you receive too.”

Web Editor
Latin Jazz Network is a project dedicated to the advancement of Latin jazz and its creators. Since 2000 LJN has been spreading the word about this wonderful music known under the umbrella term: LATIN JAZZ.

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