Artist Profiles: Bobby Sanabria

Bobby Sanabria

Bobby Sanabria is a drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist, and educator who has performed with many of the leading figures in the world of Jazz and Latin music. Sanabria has performed and recorded with such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Paquito D’Rivera, Ray Barretto, Candido, Arturo Sandoval, Henry Threadgill, Larry Harlow, and the Godfather of Afro-Cuban jazz, Mario Bauzá, as well as with his own critically acclaimed ensemble, Ascension.

Sanabria, the son of Puerto Rican parents, was born and raised in 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 tradicion’. His most critically praised work has been with the famed Mario Bauzá and his Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, with whom he has recorded three CDs, considered to be the definitive works of the Afro-Cuban big-band Jazz tradition.

Sanabria has been the recipient of many awards, including an NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) grant as a jazz performer, various Meet the Composer awards, and the INTAR off-Broadway composer award.

Sanabria’s first big band recording, Live & in Clave!!! was nominated for a mainstream Grammy in 2001. In 2003 he was nominated for a Latin Grammy for, “50 Years of Mambo”, A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado. Drum! Magazine named him Percussionist of the Year in 2005.

His 2008 recording is “El Espiritu Jibaro – The Jibaro Spirit” with trombonist Roswell Rudd and cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, which features Bobby with his nonet, Ascensión.

Sanabria is the associate producer of the TV documentaries “The Palladium: Where Mambo Was King” shown on Bravo which was winner of the IMAGINE award for best documentary of 2003 and “From Mambo to Hip Hop”, another award winning documentary (ALMA award, best documentary for TV) shown on PBS in 2007. He is the author of the acclaimed video series, Getting Started on Congas and he is a featured performer on the DVD, Modern Drummer Festival 2006, from Hudson Music. Bobby continues his important work in spreading the Gospel of Latin jazz by being a consultant and featured on screen interviewee for PBS’s landmark 4-hour documentary, LATIN MUSIC U.S.A. premiering nationwide on PBS October 12, 2009.

In August of 2012, Sanabria released Multiverse, inspired by the writings of Mexican author Octavio Paz and the current scientific theories of multiple universes.


¡NYC Aché!, with Ascensión (Flying Fish Records/Rounder, 1993)

Afro-Cuban Dream… Live & In Clave!!! (Arabesque label, 2000).

¡Quarteto Aché! (Zoho, 2002)

50 Years of Mambo – A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado (Mambo Maniacs, 2003)

Big Band Urban Folktales (Jazzheads, 2007)

El Espiritu Jibaro – The Jibaro Spirit(2008)

Kenya Revisited Live!!! (Jazzheads, 2009)

Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! (Jazzheads, 2011)

Multiverse (Jazzheads, 2012)

Que Viva Harlem! (Jazzheads, 2014)


Getting Started on Congas (Warner Brothers, 2000)

Official web site:

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

17 + 1 =