It’s not often that a great sideman becomes a noted artist and leader, especially in the middle stages of his life, but that’s exactly what Sammy Figueroa has done. Legendary percussionist Sammy Figueroa is a multiple Grammy nominee, world-class musician, educator, and radio personality who has long been regarded as one of the world’s great musicians. After twenty years as a New York-based sideman, recording and touring with artists such as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, David Bowie, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, Quincy Jones, the Brecker Brothers, Michel Camillo, Dave Valentin, Tania Maria and countless others he moved to South Florida where he discovered a community of brilliant virtuosos from Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Puerto Rico and a treasure trove of brilliant students and faculty at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and Florida International University.
Putting together a band of the best players in town, Sammy founded the Latin Jazz Explosion. After five albums, two Grammy nominations and tours throughout the United States and Europe Sammy never looked back. Sometimes referred to as “the Latin Yellowjackets”, the Explosion’s music is considered to be one of the most sophisticated examples of Latin jazz, combining the excitement of Latin rhythms with the beauty and precision of a Pat Metheny or Brad Meldauer.
Apart from his work with the Latin Jazz Explosion Sammy has also created several other configurations including The Sammy Figueroa Quintet and Sally’s Tomato, a tribute to the music of Cal Tjader. He’s also continued to record and play with other artists. Recent projects include album recordings with the young organ/piano prodigy Matthew Whitaker and Joey De Francesco’s Grammy-nominated album ”In The Key of The Universe”.
In 2020 Sammy recorded as a featured artist on the recently released “Cuarentena” with Jtrumpeter John DaVersa and Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and is featured on Jarrod Lawson’s new neo-soul album “Be The Change”. He continues to collaborate with John DaVersa in the making a his next album. He recently performed on the Kennedy Center Arts Across America digital stage with his quintet on location at home!
Over the last ten years Sammy has also become a beloved radio personality, combining his obsession with all kinds of music with in-depth interviews on The Sammy Figueroa Show (Monday mornings on WDNA in Miami) and with his groundbreaking ‘Social Music with Sammy Figueroa’, originally on New York City’s WBAI and currently online on Mixcloud.
With his warm personality and love of children Sammy is also an experienced educator who has taught clinics and workshops at the University of Miami, the Souza Lima School in Sao Paolo and at the Percuba Summit in Havana, Cuba. For the last five years Sammy has been on the board of Arts 4 Learning, an organization that provides after-school programs for children in underserved neighborhoods.