From: Mark Minasian <>
Date: Sun, 6 Apr 1997 17:58:33 -1000
Subject: Arturo Sandoval (long post)

Last night, April 5th, Arturo Sandoval performed at Leeward College in Pearl City, Hawaii. As a member of the music faculty, I was able to arrange to be his personal chauffeur and to have a one-on-one private lesson with him.

The following is long and in some places the language is vulgar, but I figure that many of you would like to know Arturo's thoughts on music.

First off, the concert was phenomenal!!! His band is hot, the show is exciting and everything you have heard him do on recordings he can do live. He also is a very good percussionist and singer, and plays piano better than most professional pianists! If you get an opportunity to see him, DO IT!

I picked Arturo up at his hotel around 5:00 p.m. In the car he talked about the many wonderful people who have helped him over the years. Timofei Dokshitzer, who gave him his first private lessons, of course Dizzy Gillespie, who was one of Arturo's closest friends and the one who arranged for his defection. Whenever there were lulls in the conversation, he would start to scat sing, working out jazz patterns aurally and mentally/aurally transposing them in ascending and descending sequences. His mind was rarely out of music.

He talked about Maurice Andre. Arturo first met him when Andre came and heard Arturo play at a jazz club in Paris. He came back stage after the concert and offered to take Arturo back to his hotel. Upon seeing the run down, low rent dive that Arturo had been booked into, Maurice Andre told him to pack his bags and come home with him. Arturo spent the next 2 weeks living at Maurice Andre's home, where they played duets, cooked for each other and swam in Andre's pool. At that time, Arturo had never seen a piccolo trpt. Maurice Andre taught him how to play it and gave Arturo one of his piccolos.

Andre also arranged for Arturo to participate in a brass master class along with Andre and Adolph Herseth. Being his first master class he asked "what could I possibly have to say next to you or Herseth?" Andre told him to just tell his story and play trumpet and the audience would love it. At the master class, Arturo mentioned that one of his greatest influences was Harry James. Upon hearing that, Adolph Herseth rose and gave a standing ovation. Later, Herseth told of his admiration for James and said that he thought Harry James was greatly under-rated outside of the jazz world.

Herseth also showed Arturo his mouthpiece and said " I play this mouthpiece because it has the same sized rim as a bottle of beer".

Arturo asked about my background, and when I mentioned that I had studied with Bill Adam, he said that he has met many marvelous trumpet players who were Adam students but had never had the opportunity to meet Bill Adam. At my lesson, Arturo asked me more questions than I asked him. I told him how Mr Adam plays in each lesson and Arturo responded "That's good. I respect that. I cannot understand why one would study with someone who does not play" As I explained the Adam approach he agreed with much of it, especially the idea that trumpet playing is primarily a mental game.

At one point in my lesson, he rapidly tongued a series of 2 octave leaps from low C to high C that would put Al Vizzuti to shame. He then looked at me and then said "What would you do if I asked you to do that?" The look on my face made him smile and he then said "The minute you thought that was difficult, you were defeated. You have the ability to do this but do not believe in yourself. The horn is just a piece of metal. YOU must be its Master! You must have bigger balls than the trumpet!

If you give it any room, it will tear you up." He then looked at his horn and shouted "F*CK YOU!" then proceeded to play a run from low C up to G above double C and back down.

He had me play some pedal tone studies. I admitted that I usually don't do pedal tones because I did a lot of them in high school and, as a result, actually developed some embouchure problems that took years to fix. He told me to play pedal tones with the same fingerings as in the normal range of the horn and not to alter the embouchure as I descend. My open pedal C was very flat, and he said that he felt that being able to cleanly play a pedal C, with open fingerings, a big sound and in tune, set him up with the proper embouchure for playing the horn. He then demonstrated by playing a scale from low C down to double pedal C and then up to G above double C and back down into the low register. No pivots or changes in his embouchure were noticeable. He then demonstrated lip flexibilities by rapidly slurring pedal C to low C to middle C to low C to pedal C etc. He also stated that one should play music down into the pedal registers.

During his concert some of his improvised solos spanned from double pedal C up to well above double C.

He looked through some of the books I had brought. Upon seeing his series from Hal Leonard, he stated how proud he is of these books because of the CD's of him playing the exercises. He stated that too many trumpet players get so wrapped up in the technique of playing that they forget to listen to their sound and make music. The idea of the CD's is to give the student a sound from which to base an interpretation. He said that if a trumpet player doesn't want to play an exercise with his sound and articulation that's fine, as long as the trumpet player is thinking and playing musically.

He asked me more questions about Bill Adam, and I ended up copying the Adam routine for him as well as printing out all the articles available at David Roth's web site (

After the concert, I drove him back to his hotel. While on the road, he pulled out his cellular phone and said that even though it's 4:30 a.m. in Miami, he had to call his wife. He called and they talked for a few minutes. He then told me that when he is away from home, he calls his wife at least twice a day. He admitted to not being that attentive to his mother and father. He usually only calls them once a day. Arturo told me that "Nothing in my life is more important than family. Nothing! Music is a distant second and playing a trumpet comes in third". He said that when he has no musical engagements, the horn goes under the bed and he devotes all his time to his family. Though, he did say that if there is a piano in the room he has to play it.

I hope this post gives you some idea of my weekend. Arturo Sandoval is a true gentleman and incredible performing artist. I hope that all of you get the opportunity to hear and meet this fine man.

Mark Minasian