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Sandoval performances feature virtual non-stop music

| Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 9:42 p.m.

Arturo Sandoval has all the speed, range, power and tone a trumpet player needs.

But the man never quits. When he is not playing trumpet or flugelhorn, he fiddles at electric keyboards, fools with percussion instruments of simply leads his sextet through its paces.

Two shows Feb. 7 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side were packed with virtual non-stop music.

Sandoval spoke little, and the band poured out high-energy tunes that included, appropriately, Dizzy Gillespie's “A Night in Tunisia” and an amazingly fast version of “Cherokee.” The latter was right out of the glory years of Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and was built around wickedly fast playing by Sandoval and saxophonist Zane Musa.

Sandoval was something of a protege of Gillespie, and has some of the incredible speed and range the master of bebop had. That power and quickness also showed up in a slightly Latin version of Miles Davis' “Seven Steps to Heaven” in which one solo sailed up high enough that it would literally have been off the chart had it been written down.

He also showed amazing range as he closed “A Night in Tunisia” and kept lifting the thematic statements higher and higher. Before the last, he blessed himself, but didn't seem to need help from above.

Sandoval is not a show-off trumpeter who constantly offers stunning displays. But he never offered any calmer moments with his horn in the first show. Too bad. Would have been good to hear.

He did offer a lovely version of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” on piano. His work there was not nearly as impressive, but it was a pretty and gentle reading of the song that offered a little break from the energy of the night.

The band also featured good drum work by Alexis Pututi.

Sometimes Sandoval's hard-work-all-the-time attitude had drawbacks. In the band's opener of “Isn't She Lovely,” Sandoval took impressive solos on trumpet and flugelhorn, then added a cheap, electronic voice under the sax work of Musa. It didn't accomplish anything, and simply drew attention from Musa's quick and soulful playing that had some of the gritty style of the work of King Curtis.

Sandoval is too good a musician not to see that.

But that was about the only weakness of the evening. That electronic voice also drew down an energetic Cuban piece the band did, but it wasn't enough to spoil the concert.

It would have been tough to do that.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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