Drum giant Antonio Sánchez on 'Birdman' tour after album with Trent Reznor, Dave Matthews and Pat Metheny

George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

SAN DIEGO — How big an impact can a film that wins four Oscars have on someone who doesn't appear on screen in a single frame of that film? In the case of Antonio Sánchez, life-changing.

The Mexico City native and 20-year veteran of the Pat Metheny Group was already one of the most celebrated drummers in the world when director Alejandro G. Iñárritu approached him in 2013. Iñárritu, also from Mexico City, asked Sánchez to compose and perform the groundbreaking solo drum-set score for the 2014 film "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," whose cast includes Michael Keaton and Emma Stone.

It went on to win Oscars in 2015 for Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. In 2016, "Birdman" earned Sánchez a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.

The film's Oscar and Grammy wins led to more film and TV scoring gigs for the veteran drummer, composer and leader of the genre-blurring band Bad Hombre. It also opened the door for the collaborations on Sánchez's 10th solo album, 2022's "Shift (Bad Hombre, Vol. 2)," which teams him with such varied musicians as Metheny, Dave Matthews, Meshell Ndegeocello, Lila Downs, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, Ana Tijoux, Kimbra and more.

"That all these great artists, who I admire so much, would even give me the time of day is just incredible — and I think it's largely because of 'Birdman,' because that's the reference point for most people," Sánchez said.

He will perform his striking drum score live when the film screens Thursday at UC San Diego's Epstein Family Amphitheater as part of his national "Birdman Live 10th Anniversary Tour."


"I got to meet Trent Reznor at the Golden Globe Awards, the same year I was nominated for one, and he loved 'Birdman'," Sánchez continued. "If people don't know my solo work — or my work with Pat (Metheny), Chick Corea, Michael Brecker or Gary Burton — they usually know 'Birdman.' That has opened different kinds of doors because it's a very powerful thing when you are the composer of an Oscar-winning film."

'I felt like a tourist'

As "Birdman" racked up one prize after another around the world, including a Best Score award for Sánchez at Italy's Venice Film Festival, he entered an entirely new world.

"I felt like a tourist in that (film) industry, because the nature of jazz is so different and very low-key," Sánchez said, speaking from the Barcelona home he shares with his wife, Macedonian-born singer Thana Alexa.


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