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(Published: August 06, 2011)

It's not every day that a distinguished sideman makes a successful transition to solo artist. But percussionist Sammy Figueroa not only has become a successful leader in his own right, but is also one of the most exciting artists in Latin Jazz today. He calls Urban Nature, his third recording with his twice Grammy® nominated band, The Latin Jazz Explosion, "the most satisfying record we've ever done. It truly reflects my personality." Urban Nature also marks a new beginning - this is his debut album on Senator Records, an imprint created for Sammy in cooperation between Berlin's Senator Entertainment and Ashé Records.

After two decades as New York's number-one percussionist, recording and performing with artists such as Miles Davis, the Brecker Brothers, Sonny Rollins (with whom he is currently touring) and pop stars David Bowie, Chaka Khan, and Mariah Carey to name a few, Sammy was ready for a change. He moved to South Florida where, between the extraordinary Frost School of Music at the University of Miami and a community of excellent musicians from Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Argentina, he discovered a vibrant Latin jazz scene, rich with musical opportunities.

Gathering together some of the best players in town, Sammy and his band made their debut at the Hollywood Jazz Festival in 2002. He hasn't looked back since. The band's first two albums, And Sammy Walked In and The Magician, each received Grammy® Nominations for Best Latin Jazz Album and their exciting performances have gained them enthusiastic fans throughout the United States and Europe.

Sammy Figueroa & his Latin Jazz Explosion is a true ensemble, balancing dazzling displays of virtuosity with touches of classical elegance, swinging Latin rhythms and sophisticated fusion, with Sammy always anchoring the music with his rich expressive playing. Remarking on Sammy's creativity and ease on his instrument, saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins has pronounced that "there is no better percussionist than Sammy Figueroa."

The Latin Jazz Explosion features the brilliant pianist Silvano Monasterios and accomplished bassist Gabriel Vivas (both from Venezuela), Alex Pope Norris on trumpet, saxophonist John Michalak and the young Puerto Rican drummer Nomar Negroni. On Urban Nature the group is joined by special guests Ed Calle on sax, Mike Orta on piano and Venezuelan percussionist José Gregorio Hernandez.

Urban Nature is a salute to the creativity that Sammy, a native New Yorker, has experienced during his time in Miami. These are not the gritty streets of New York City: it's a place where condo towers, fast cars, culture clash and urban poverty meet the vibrant blue and green of sky and sea, where violent storms swiftly transition into incredible sunsets, where mangos block your driveway at certain times of year and where alligators might be lurking in the canals alongside I-95.

The album's kinetic cover photo, taken in motion on the causeway between Miami Beach and the mainland, reflects this message, and the music's combination of earthy rhythms and heady harmonies, carries it forward.

This album was created as a team effort between Sammy, composer/arrangers Silvano Monasterios and Gabriel Vivas, and producer Rachel Faro. Monasterios and Vivas offer seven signature pieces, composed specifically for Sammy and this album.

The album opens with the clarion call of "Gufillo," an original piece by Monasterios, featuring one of Sammy's hand-blurring solos. This segues into the title track, a catchy, yet majestic cha-cha by Vivas. Mike Orta's original "Latin What?" features a quirky raw solo by Calle on tenor sax. "Zuliana" follows, a delicate folk-influenced tune by Silvano Monasterios dedicated to his father's home province in Venezuela.

Monasterios' "7th Door On Your Left" is in 7/8 meter and just about seven minutes long. This magic number takes the listener through a winding, relaxed journey that leads into "Cuco y Olga," a tribute to the late, great Mongo Santamaria.

The last three tunes on the album, all originals by Vivas and Monasterios, further establish the group's characteristic sound. "Cha Cha 'Pa Ti" is a sinuous cha-cha, its melody winding around a steady base of repetitive rhythm parts. "Queen From The South" is Silvano's homage to one of the many beautiful women in his native land. The album closes with "Funny Talk," Vivas' tribute to Sammy's famous sense of humor.

"The Latin feel in jazz has been around since jazz began," says Sammy. "It's all about the rhythm, the movement and certain swing. When you hear it, you don't have to be Latin to like it. It just does something to your system that one cannot explain. On this album we had the opportunity to successfully combine the joy of Latin rhythms with the sophistication of jazz harmonics. I hope the listener will enjoy this music as much as we have playing and recording it."


August 27 | CD Release Celebration Concert at The Jazz Gallery WDNA-FM | Miami, FL

August 31 | Old Town School of Folk Music | Chicago, IL

September 2 | Jazz Kitchen | Indianapolis, IN

September 4 | Detroit International Jazz Festival | Detroit, MI

September 16 | Jazz At The Palm | West Palm Beach, FL

September 18 | Monterey Jazz Festival | Monterey, CA (with Sonny Rollins)

October 6 | Sculler's Jazz Club | Boston, MA

October 10 | Kennedy Center | Washington DC (with Sonny Rollins)

October 12 | Zinc Bar | New York, NY

October 14 | Nashville Symphony | Nashville TN (with Sonny Rollins)

October 15 | Clearwater Jazz Holiday | Clearwater, FL

October 22 | Jazz at Pinecrest Gardens, Banyan Bowl | Pinecrest FL

Sammy Figueroa · Urban Nature
Senator Records · Release Date: August 30, 2011

More Information: http://sammyfigueroa.com

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