Sammy Figueroa was born in the Bronx, New York, the son of thewell-known singer Charlie Figueroa. His first professional experiencecame at the age of 18 with the band of bassist Bobby Valentin. Duringthis time he co-founded the innovative fusion Brazilian/Latin group Raices, which broke ground for many of todayís bands.
After releasing a classic album on Atlantic Records, the band moved to New York where Sammy was soon discovered by jazz flautist Herbie Mann. Tours and albums with the Brecker Brothers, Average White Band and JohnMcLaughlinís Mahavishnu Orchestra followed, culminating in recordingsand tours with the legendary Miles Davis.
Since then Sammy has played with a multitude of distinguished jazz andLatin jazz artists including Sonny Rollins, Dave Sanborn, Quincy Jones,Dave Grusin, George Benson, Chet Baker, Stanley Clarke, GroverWashington, Jr., Al Jarreau, Lena Horne, Joe Williams, Mark Murphy, Mike Mainieri, Nestor Torres, Chico OíFarrill, Mike Stern, Dave Grusin, Chuck Loeb, Bobby Watson, Dave Valentin, Arturo Sandoval, Paquito
DíRivera, Luis Salinas, Ruben Blades, Eddie Palmieri, Bobby Valentin, Tania Maria and Michel Camillo, who wrote the song "And Sammy Walked In" in his honor (this song was also recorded by Giovanni Hidalgo.)
Sammy also played with most of the worldís major pop stars. He appeared on Mariah Carey's MTV Unplugged album and video and has recorded or performed with James Taylor, Dr. John, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Celine Dion, Blues Traveler, Natalie Merchant, David Lee Roth, Hall & Oates, Joe Cocker, Rickie Lee Jones, Annie Lennox and many, many more. Sammy played on many classic r & b hits such as Luther Vandross' "The Night I Fell In Love" and Ashford and Simpson's "Solid Like A Rock". He also recorded with Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Grace Jones, James Ingram, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin and can be heard on most of the Nile Roger and Bernard Edwards disco hits such as Chic and Sister Sledge. As one of New Yorkís most sought after session players Sammy played on countless albums, jingles and film scores. His famed sense of humor, ebullient personality, and open-heartedness are famous within the music industry and have enabled him to develop close relationships with artists and fellow musicians.
In the spirit of experimentation he has collaborated and appeared with artists such as Paul Winter, Glen Velez and Michael Shrieve. He has also worked with Wynton Marsalis on an educational program for children and taught a shaman/percussion workshop called Thunder Drums.
Sammyís sounds and rhythms are also featured on "Percussionworks" (Big Fish Audio), a highly popular sampling and "beats" collection used by producers and recording engineers throughout the world.
In 1993 Sammy was invited to play at the Havana Plaza Jazz Festival where he played with Cuban bands such as Irakere and Grupo Afro-Cuba. This trip had a profound effect on his life and music and since then he has been to Cuba countless times, researching the music and extending his relationships with the musicians there.
Soon after he formed a production company, Faro Figueroa Productions, with producer/musician Rachel Faro. This team soon became one of recording industry's most promising progressive Latin record producers, with releases out on several major and independent labels.
Recently, Sammy has been integrating drum & bass, jungle, trance, ambient sounds and R&B with Latin rhythms and sounds. He is featured on 'Gran Riserva' (Six Degrees Records) by the Viennese electronica d.j./producers Zihan & Kamian and has been performing regularly with Miami's famed DJ LeSpam & the Spam All-Stars. He recently completed "Sammyworks", a sampling album of loops and breaks for the use of d.j.s and producers, using his extensive knowledge of rhythms and vast
collection of percussion instruments.
Sammy relocated to Miami in 2001 and joined the band of Raul Midon, a remarkable singer/songwriter who has since moved to New York, and Rose Max, a popular Brazilian singer. In September, 2002, with the encouragement of the South Florida Friends of Jazz and Don Wilner, the musical director at Van Dyke's Cafe, Sammy debuted his own Latin jazz band, Sammy Figueroa and his Latin Explosion, featuring Miamiís best jazz musicians, including famed Cuban saxophonist Carlos Averoff, and
world-class players Mike Orta on piano and his brother, virtuoso bassist Nick Orta. Over the past months The Explosion has appeared at the Hollywood Jazz Festival, the JVC Jazz Festival Miami and the Port of Miami Jazz Festival and, especially, on a montly basis at the world-famous jazz club Van Dyke's Cafe. In Miami, Sammy also performed and recorded with Nestor Torres, Arturo Sandoval, Son By Four, the Chirino Sisters, Franco Da Vita, Nicole Henry, and Prem Joshua.
In November 2002 Sammy traveled to Cuba on an intercultural exchange by the Miami Light Project to collaborate, along with DJ LeSpam, with hip hop artists on the island. In May 2003 these same artists performed with Sammy in the Miami International Hip Hop Exchange. He is also planning to record an album of percussion-oriented dance music with Couch Records in Vienna.
Sammy endorses Meinl Percussion, Zildjian and Remo. In addition, he also plays the ZenDrum, which midis the sampled sounds of Sammyís percussion, and a set of unusual steel pans called Panart HandPans.