Arturo Sandoval plays at the Lobero Theatre on Feb. 10 | Credit: Courtesy

Cuban-born trumpeter-bandleader Arturo Sandoval is returning to Santa Barbara, in the first concert of this year of the Jazz at the Lobero series, on Friday, February 10. It promises to be a hot time in the old town/venue.

For historical context — in this moment of celebrating the historical resonances of the Lobero during its 150th anniversary — this is the very stage where Sandoval’s early influence and musical hero Dizzy Gillespie played in the late ’80s (in a band featuring the late saxist Sam Rivers). The two horn players have in common an easy virtuosic command of their unforgiving instrument, and a passion for a range of music from bebop to Afro-Cuban strains and beyond. Sandoval demonstrates that diversity of interests and skills on his album from last year, Rhythm & Soul.

Aside from the musical linkages connecting the master and protégé, both trumpeters have fully embraced the notion that a jazz concert should be an entertaining forum. The showman instinct is a natural aspect of a Sandoval show, as it was when Gillespie graced a stage. The cycle continues.

Is working the crowd part of the mission for him? In an interview with me, Sandoval commented, “As far as I know, I believe that is our mission. Some people don’t get it. Our mission is to play music, but also to make the people have a good time. What is wrong with that? Some people want to play jazz and be so dark and sad on the stage. Some people confuse that with clownship, you know. You don’t necessarily have to be a clown. You have to be an artist. Be you. Be natural.”

Sandoval’s natural talent and attitude have earned him a rich career and reputation. Rhythm & Soul is the latest release in a list of discography more than 30 albums long, and his weighty list of accolades and prizes includes 10 Grammy Awards as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, given him by President Obama.

Sandoval defected from Cuba in 1977, with Gillespie’s help. At age 73, he remains a prime proponent of the hyphenate genre of Afro-Cuban jazz, a marriage partly made manifest through Gillespie’s Latin American musical passion. “I believe in Afro-Cuban jazz,” said Sandoval. “Dizzy Gillespie, Mario Bauzá, and Chano Pozo put that together in 1946. I still believe it’s one of the [best] fusions or combinations ever in jazz, one of the most beautiful combinations. It’s a powerful style of music.

“I believe in that very much, which is the reason I keep playing in that style, and the reason I keep trying to put together tunes and compositions, thinking about that combination. For me, I believe in its worth.”

In an interview before his own Lobero concert 30-something years ago, Gillespie himself addressed the subject of helping create the Afro-Cuban sound: “Jazz is big enough to bring all of that into it. With the background of jazz — spirituals, blues, gospel — there are many facets to jazz. It can run in almost any direction. Jazz has a great heritage.”

No doubt, Gillespie will be looking down on the Lobero from his celestial perch on Friday, nodding in rhythm and pride.

Arturo Sandoval performs at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Friday, February 10. See

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