SAMMY FIGUEROA has long been regarded as one of the world's great musicians. As one of the music's leading percussionists he has played on countless records and is well-known for his versatility in a multitude of musical styles. Besides playing with some of the world's greatest pop stars, such as David Bowie, Chaka Khan and Mariah Carey, Sammy has also played with a multitude of distinguished jazz artists including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, George Benson, and many, many more.
When Sammy plays percussion he tells a story, creating a playful conversation with other musicians and taking the listener on a musical journey . As one of the world's greatest congueros he is currently considered to be the most likely candidate to inherit the mantles of Mongo Santamaria and Ray Barretto.
Sammy Figueroa was born in the Bronx and raised in Puerto Rico, the son of romantic singer Charlie Figueroa. After many years as New York's number one percussionist, in 2001 Sammy relocated to South Florida. It was there that Sammy discovered a rich treasure trove of amazing Latin jazz virtuosos from Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, and was inspired to find his voice as a solo artist. Putting a band together with the best players in town Sammy Figueroa and His Latin Jazz Explosion debuted at the Hollywood Jazz Festival and since then he has never looked back.
"Figueroa proves to have a distinguishing technique and voice of his own, making him the leading percussionist in Latin jazz today"
Sammy's first album, "...and Sammy Walked In", included a title track written in his honor by Michel Camillo. Three more albums followed: "The Magician", "Urban Nature" and "Imaginary World". All three of these albums are notable for brilliant compositions and arrangements by Venezuelan composer/musicians Silvano Monasterios on piano and Gabriel Vivas on bass. "And Sammy Walked In" and "The Magician" have both been honored with Grammy® Nominations for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Additionally, Sammy released "Talisman" in 2014, a collaboration with Brazilian singer Glaucia Nasser, which unites Latin jazz with Brazilian song and in 2015 "Memory of Water" where Sammy plays the eclectic and celestial-sounding Hangpan, a steel-drum type instrument with a beautiful sonorous and healing sound. This album reflects another side of Sammy: his passionate interest in spirituality, alternative science and unusual instruments. All of Sammy's albums have been produced or co-produced with the award-winning world music producer Rachel Faro, his longtime partner and producer.
In addition to his own albums, Sammy has also co-produced several important jazz and world music albums with Rachel Faro. Notable productions include two albums with the phenomenal Cuban a cappella group Vocal Sampling (Sire/Elektra), 'Celebremos Navidad' with Fania cuatro hero Yomo Toro (Ashé Records) and the spectacular Cuban jazz album Cuarto Espacio featuring Ernan Lopez-Nussa.
From 2010 to 2013, Sammy toured the world with the great saxophone master Sonny Rollins. Sammy also appears on Sonny Rollins' albums, the Grammy® Nominated 'Road Shows Vol. 2', 'Road Shows Vol. 3' and the recently released 'Holding The Stage, Road Shows Vol. 4'.
Sammy's most recent album, "Searching For A Memory", to be released July 14, 2023, is a tribute to the romantic boleros sung by his father, Charlie Figueroa. Funded by a Creative Residency Grant from the Jazz Road initiative at SouthArts, the album features the great Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba as player and musical director and the sensational Cuban singer Aymée Nuviola, with guest appearances by Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trumpets John Daversa, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Munir Hossn and Cuban flautist Magela Herrera. The classic ballads are transformed into exciting Latin jazz with flavors of son, samba, cha-cha, plena/bomba and damson.
In addition to his two Grammy® Nominations for Best Latin Jazz, Sammy has been honored with numerous awards. These include two NARAS Awards for Percussionist of the Year, two Drummie Awards for Best Hand Percussion and the Jazz Journalists Association Award for Best Percussionist.
Sammy appears in several important books on music and its legends. His relationship with Miles Davis is described at length both in Miles' own words in his autobiography entitled "Miles"and in "The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis From 1980-1991" by George Cole. Sammy appears in the definitive biography of Sonny Rollins, "Saxophone Colossus" by Aidan Levy, in addition to an interview in "Beyond The Notes", a film on Sonny Rollins. Anecdotes about Sammy abound in Paquito D'Rivera's amusing book "My Sax Life". Sammy has also been included in The Grove Dictionary of Jazz.