Bobby Sanabria - drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist, producer and educator -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, Chico O'Farrill, Candido, Francisco Aguabella, 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. He received their prestigious Faculty Association Award for his work as an instrumentalist. Since his graduation, Bobby has become a leader in the Afro-Cuban and jazz fields as both drummer and percussionist, and is recognized as one of the most articulate scholars of la tradición. 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. His most critically praised work has been with the famed Mario Bauzá Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. With them he recorded three Grammy-nominated CDs, considered to be the 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 with the orchestra. He 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 Mr. Sanabria and 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 latest recording, ¡Quarteto Aché!, on the ZOHO label, documents 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.
Mr. Sanabria has been the recipient of many awards, including an NEA grant as a jazz performer, various Meet the Composer awards, and the INTAR Off-Broadway Composer award. Most recently he has received the Mid-Atlantic Foundation Arts Connect Grant for three successive years. In 2003 he was presented with an "Outstanding Achievement Award" by Ivan Acosta, head of Latin Jazz USA, in recognition of Bobby's extraordinary creative contribution to Latin jazz. He also received a second Grammy nomination in 2003 for, 50 Years of Mambo - A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado. Mr. Sanabria co-produced the nationally broadcast documentary, THE PALLADIUM - Where Mambo Was King, for the BRAVO network which received the Best Documentary award for cable networks in 2003.
Mr. Sanabria was recently voted “Percussionist of the Year" for 2005 by the readers of DRUM! Magazine, a worldwide publication devoted to drums and percussion. He is currently working on another documentary in conjunction with City Lore in NYC entitled, From MAMBO TO HIP HOP – Music and Survival in the South Bronx, scheduled to be broadcast on PBS in October of 2006.
Bobby has been featured as a guest conductor/soloist with the National All Star Jazz Orchestra of Calgary, Canada, The Nova Scotia All Star Jazz Big Band, the World Premiere of Marco Rizo’s Suite De Las Americas at the Mann Center in Philadelphia and most recently the Amsterdam Conservertoire Jazz Orchestra at the North Sea Jazz Festival.
In addition to being Chair of the International Association of Jazz Education's (IAJE) Afro-Cuban Jazz Resource Team, Mr. Sanabria is rounding out his 14th year as an Associate Professor at the New School University's Jazz & Contemporary Music Program and has also been Professor at Manhattan School of Music since 1999. He is a member of NARAS, LARAS, AF of M, BMI, SAG and the Universal Jazz Coalition. Mr. Sanabria proudly endorses TAMA drums, Sabian cymbals, Latin Percussion Inc., Remo drum heads, Factory Metal Percussion, and Vic Firth sticks and mallets.