Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval performs at artistic director Rachael Worby's… (Angela Weiss, WireImage )
We're blessed here in L.A. Some of the most notable Latin musicians in the world call this city home: Spanish Harlem Orchestra leader Oscar Hernández, bossa nova pioneer Sergio Mendes and, more recently, Cuban trumpet player and composer Arturo Sandoval.
Sandoval's presence brought some much-needed gravitas to a performance of classical and jazz fare by the Muse/ique orchestra Friday at Caltech's outdoor Beckman Mall in Pasadena.
Everything has already been said about Sandoval's superb phrasing and virtuoso technique. A former member of Cuban supergroup Irakere and a protégé of Dizzy Gillespie, he moves comfortably across genres and instruments — using the trumpet to generate an apocalyptic range of sounds, alternately majestic, humorous and romantic.
On Friday, he was the exuberant soloist on Hummel's Trumpet Concerto, then returned at the end of the program with a punchy "Night in Tunisia."
He told the colorful story of meeting Gillespie in 1977 — when Sandoval was a young musician living in Havana — before performing the title track of his new album, "Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)." A tribute to maestro Dizzy, this was a nocturnal number anchored on upright bass, keyboards and Sandoval's singing — the most soulful moment of the evening.
Unfortunately, the frame for these musical gems was less than ideal. Inviting a performer of Sandoval's caliber and then having him play just a handful of numbers was a baffling decision. And his exquisite musicality deserved a better setting that the clinking of wine glasses and the chattering of picnicking patrons.
The pieces without Sandoval were a mixed bag. A misguided arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's "Fuga y Misterio" sounded like Henry Mancini movie music and captured none of the Argentine composer's morbid fatalism. Gershwin's "Promenade," on the other hand, was elegant and delightful.