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TO Live Presents: Arturo Sandoval Septet – Bringing The Heat to Toronto

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Arturo Sandoval in Toronto
Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, TO

I have seen Arturo Sandoval live on two previous occasions. The first time was way back in 2008 at the big tent, in front of Toronto’s City Hall. This was one of the headline acts of the Toronto Jazz Festival. He was amazing! The show was fantastic and most memorable. One of the reasons, the great Toronto-based pianist Hilario Durán made a special appearance. Durán took to the stage, sat at the piano and played a fiery song with Sandoval and the band. It was a brilliant performance! 

The next time I witnessed the trumpet magic of Arturo Sandoval was in 2019 at the Flato Markham Theatre. An entertaining show with great musicianship all around. Two of the same musicians were accompanying Sandoval at this night’s performance, the saxophonist Michael Tucker and the pianist Maxwell Haymer.

Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto
Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, TO

On Saturday, April 29, Arturo Sandoval and his band performed at the Meridian Arts Centre, George Weston Recital Hall in Toronto. The show started a little after 8 pm, giving the room time to fill up. And fill up it did. It Looked like a packed house and the introduction by TO Live confirmed this was a sold-out show.

“This show will be one and a half hours with no intermission. Welcome Arturo Sandoval,” said the TO Live host.

The band, less Arturo Sandoval, came on stage and took to their instruments, a count in by way of the drummer, Mark Walker, and lift off. The opening number was a fiery, hard-bop-sounding tune with the septet in full swing mode. A blazing guitar break by William Brahm, followed by an equally impressive saxophone break by Tucker. The bassist, playing an electric six-string bass took a swinging solo, followed by the drummer who went into trading eights with the rest of the band, tasteful eight-bar improvisations.

Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto
Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, TO

Michael Tucker introduced Arturo Sandoval to the stage, “Welcome the Legend, Arturo Sandoval.”

Arturo Sandoval takes to the microphone and says his hellos, he talks about the great Canadian artists he knows and some that he’s played with over the course of his long career, well into his sixth decade. Sandoval says that he regrets that he never got the chance to play with one of his favourites, Oscar Peterson. Tonight, Sandoval pays tribute to Kelly Peterson who is in attendance, the widow of Oscar and lets her know this concert is in Oscar’s memory.

Sandoval opens with a beautiful ballad, solo trumpet, then saxophone follows and back to trumpet again. Sandoval and Tucker play a couple of bars together and then Sandoval launches into an upbeat, fast-tempo tune.

Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto
Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, TO

The band played a few numbers from the recently released, 2022, Rhythm and Soul album. Sandoval did not tell the audience the names of the songs that he performed. 

Sandoval did his scatting thing, similar to something that Dizzy Gillespie used effectively in his shows. John Birks Gillespie, as Arturo liked to call him, or Dizzy Gillespie as he was best known, was most famous for his Be-Bop and Afro-Cuban jazz style of trumpet play. 

After another short chat about how painful the trumpet is, Sandoval started a song with his favourite instrument. A jaws harp, given to him by his hero, John Burke’s Gillespie.

Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto
Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, TO

“The trumpet,” he says, “I 95% hate and 5% love the instrument.”

He tells the audience he doesn’t like the nickname Dizzy and never refers to his hero as Dizzy.

The band and Sandoval dive into a funky tune with the trumpet master taking to the Korg digital electric keyboard which is part of his instrument setup and includes timbales and some miscellaneous percussion instruments.

After this, there is more chatting with the audience and a short skit about how terrible the English language is. Another cute skit followed that included the members of the band.

Sandoval takes Gillespie’s part. The story goes that a journalist asks Be-Bop legends, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Charlie Parker to explain Be-Bop. The drummer does a Clark Terry bit on what Be-Bop is and the sax player takes the role of Charlie Parker, explaining Be-Bop to an imaginary journalist.

Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto
Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, TO

The band launches into a familiar-sounding upbeat tune only to stop at a wave to cut from the leader Sandoval. He is not hearing his monitor. He tries to get this sorted and when that does not happen to his liking, he exits stage right. The band appears concerned.

Arturo Sandoval re-appears on stage and checks the microphone, he says, “We did a long soundcheck this afternoon. I thought we had it figured out! It’s not what you hear in the headphones man, listen to what the people hear.”

The audience claps their approval. “It’s ok, shit happens.”

Sandoval starts to sing, “When I Fall In Love” and the band picks up on the tune. Sandoval takes his microphone and goes down to floor level, singing the song to the audience.

Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto
Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, TO

This playing and talking to the audience continued for the rest of the show. Sandoval told stories, he made mention of his recent wedding anniversary, his 48th. A celebratory trip to China, and some joking and kibitzing with the audience. 

An old familiar, “When The Saints Go Marching In” had the audience singing out loud and clear.

I believe the last song played was a version of “Malagueña”. It was another familiar tune, uplifting and burning brightly. Sandoval thanked the audience and departed, followed by the band.

The audience gave the group a standing ovation, and a few minutes later, the Arturo Sandoval band returned and played a couple of encore tunes. The final tune was a salsa rhythm, and this one had everybody up clapping and dancing in the aisles. Arturo Sandoval is a master entertainer and remains The Trumpet King.

Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto
Arturo Sandoval Septet at George Weston Recital Hall, TO

*All photos by Paul J. Youngman

An independent journalist, based in Toronto, Canada. A professional musician and a fan of music, dance and the arts. I have written short stories, lyrics, poetry and reviews. I have been published in numerous online webzines. I’ve taught drumming and played in bands; I have felt the passion to create. I enjoy expressing that passion, the artistic experience, in words, reporting on the shows and musical experiences that I have witnessed.

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