Louis “Sabu” Martinez was born on July 14, 1930 in New York City and made his professional debut in 1941 at age 11. He replaced Chano Pozo in Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra in 1948, and began performing with Benny Goodman’s Bebop Orchestra in 1949.
Over the next 15 years, Martinez worked with jazz luminaries Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, J.J. Johnson, Mary Lou Williams, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Lionel Hampton; vocalist Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte as well as Latin favorites Noro Morales, Marcelino Guerra, Tito Rodriguez and the Lecuona Cuban Boys.
A prominent conguero and percussionist in the Cubop movement in the 1950s, Martinez appeared on many important recordings and live performances during that period. Martinez also recorded several Latin jazz albums, now recognized as classics of the genre.
Martinez first recorded with Art Blakey in 1953, and contributed to his Orgy in Rhythm and Holiday for Skins projects from 1957–58. Martinez became a bandleader in 1957, recording his debut album, Palo Congo for Blue Note Records. He followed it up with releases on Vik and Alegre Records.
Martinez moved to Sweden in 1967 and recorded with the Francy Boland-Kenny big band, releasing two albums. Subsequently he led the group Burnt Sugar, which was active into the mid ’70s, but, on January 13, 1979, he died in Sweden at the age of 48.
Michele Rosewoman was born on March 19, 1953 in Oakland, California. She began playing the piano at age six and as a teenager studied with organist/pianist Ed Kelly. After extensive work locally leading several jazz groups she also played with Baikida Carroll, Julius Hemphill and Julian Priester. In 1977 Michele moved to New York where she involved herself in the avant-garde scene playing and recording as a sidewoman with Oliver Lake, Billy Bang, Greg Osby, Ralph Peterson and the members of M Base among others.
Rosewoman is most notable for her work and recordings with her Quintessence ensemble as well as several trio and quartet sessions. Steeped in Cuban percussion and African music and since the early 80s for her Afro Cuban jazz big band “New Yor-Uba Ensemble” featuring Orlando “Puntilla” Rios.
Michele has played with such jazz masters as Freddie Waits, Rufus Reid, Billy Hart, Reggie Workman and Latin music greats such as Celia Cruz, Chocalate, Nicky Marrero, Paquito D’Rivera, and Daniel Ponce among others. She continues to perform and record around the world.
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Arturo Sandoval was born in Artemisa, Cuba on November 6, 1949 and began to play music at age 12 in the village band. After playing many instruments, he fell in love with the trumpet. In 1964, he began three years of serious classical trumpet studies at the Cuban National School of Arts. By the age of 16 he had earned a place in Cuba’s all-star national band and was totally immersed in jazz influenced by Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown and with Dizzy Gillespie as his idol and later mentor and colleague.
In 1971 he was drafted into the military. Luckily, Sandoval was still able to play with the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna. In Cuba, Sandoval co-founded the band Irakere with Chucho Valdes and Paquito D’Rivera. They quickly became a worldwide sensation. Their appearance at the 1978 Newport Jazz Festival introduced them to American audiences and garnered them a recording contract with Columbia Records.
Arturo defected to the United States while touring in Spain with Dizzy in 1990, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1999 and has enjoyed a successful career. He has played with Woody Herman, Herbie Hancock, Woody Shaw, Stan Getz, Celine Dion, Tito Puente, Patti LaBelle, Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Gordon Goodwin and numerous others.
His life was the subject of the 2000 TV film For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, starring Andy Garcia. He currently continues to perform, tour and record around the globe.
Poncho Sanchez was born October 30, 1951 in Laredo, Texas, the youngest of eleven children, but was reared in Norwalk, California. Exposed to and influenced by Afro-Cuban music (mambo, son, cha-cha, rumba, guaracha, salsa) and bebop jazz, he originally started as a guitarist. Discovering his talent for singing during an R&B band audition, he become the group’s lead vocalist. He later taught himself the flute, drums and timbales before finally deciding to pursue conga playing in high school.
In 1975, Sanchez’s idol, vibraphonist Cal Tjader invited him to perform one set with his band. Seeing the young man’s talent, Tjader hired Sanchez for a week before officially making him a full member of the ensemble. Sanchez played a crucial role as conguero for several years until Tjader’s death in 1982.
Before his death, Tjader suggested to Carl Jefferson, Concord Records founder, to sign Sanchez and his soon-to-be-formed group under the Concord Picante label. Tjader’s wishes were honored, and the first two records were composed and arranged by long-time Tjader collaborator Clare Fischer. Poncho produced 19 albums for the label and garnered a Grammy for his “Latin Soul” album.
He has played with Mongo Santamaria, Hugh Masekela and a host of jazz and Latin musicians and vocalists to numerous to name along with the iconic funk band Tower of Power on his “Do It” project. Poncho Sanchez is respected as one of the top percussionists of our time and continues to perform worldwide.
Jane Bunnett was born on October 22, 1956 in Toronto and began her musical educational as a classical pianist then switched to woodwinds at the Royal Conservatory. Inspired by Charles Mingus and Rahsaan Roland Kirk in 1979 San Francisco, she was studying jazz at York University. This led her to study with Barry Harris, James Newton, Frank Wess and James Moody and ultimately Steve Lacy in Paris in 1991.
Her debut recording “In Dew Time” featured an ambitious mix of Canadian and American players – pianist Don Pullen, tenor Dewey Redman and Vincent Chancy on French horn. This led to touring Canada and Australia and recording of her sophomore project a year later followed by two more by 1994.
Jane has become one of the foremost jazz musicians in Canada, and has gained recognition around the world for her improvising talents, technical proficiency, and writing and band leading abilities. She has received accolades and won awards from the Village Voice, SOCA, Downbeat Magazine, the National Jazz Awards of Canada, the Smithsonian Institute and the Jazz Journalist Association, her work has been nominated for several Grammy awards and received Canada’s highest award, the Order of Canada.
With sixteen albums under her belt, the saxophonist and outspoken humanitarian, Jane Bunnett continues to perform at jazz clubs, festivals, and concert halls and for broadcast throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, and Cuba, with her groups, and as a featured solo artist.
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