He suggested playfully that it might be too early to blow the trumpet. But during a modest press conference yesterday morning, Arturo Sandoval, the acclaimed jazz trumpeter who recently defected from Cuba, took three different horns from his bag. By the time he got to the third one, he was forcing tremendous squeals out of the brass, his face as round and tight and red as a kickball.

It was Sandoval's formal introduction to the American media. He, his wife, Marianela, and their 14-year-old son, Arturo Jr., had arrived in Miami on July 22. And the 41-year-old instrumentalist, a prote'ge' of Dizzy Gillespie, said he is eager to perform and record finally as "a free man."

"For a long time, the government {in Cuba} said jazz music was the music of imperialism," said Sandoval after his brief downtown debut. "It never was a good view from the government. For example, when I was in the army, I was in jail for 4 1/2 months, and they accused me to be a jazz lover." He had tried to get a radio to listen to American broadcasts. Cuban radio would never play jazz.

"When you are a jazz lover, you are an American-lover. They call you pro-American," he said. "All this trouble is with the government, not with the people. The people like jazz. They go to every place we have the chance to play."

Notwithstanding such official discouragement, Sandoval became one of Cuba's major musical assets. He began studying classical trumpet at age 12, and has performed with the Leningrad Symphony and the BBC Symphony in London. In 1973, Sandoval was one of the founders of Irakere, a Grammy-winning Cuban jazz band. (Saxophonist Paquito De Rivera, another Irakere founder, had earlier defected to the United States.) The London Times has called Sandoval "arguably the most prodigious trumpeter of his generation."

In the past few years, he has been featured in Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra. "He's one of the best," Gillespie said by telephone yesterday. "He has a very athletic style, but he can play softly too." Although Sandoval has traveled the world and performed in top jazz festivals, Gillespie said his defection from Cuba will allow him to "spread out" as a musician.

"The music was created here, the music that he loves," Gillespie said. "There's so many different angles to the music that he wouldn't hear just playing in the big cities. And we're very happy to have him here."

Sandoval said he had wanted to leave Cuba for years, despite being a celebrated artist. He and his fellow musicians "are like employees of the government," he said. "About privilege, it doesn't exist. We get a salary like everybody, and no better opportunity than anybody."

In 1981, when he formed his own band, "I had a lot of trouble. I was fighting with everybody, fighting to get every little thing," Sandoval said. "We don't have a music shop there to buy instruments or string for a guitar. We don't have any music shop in Cuba. It's unbelievable. The government buys the instruments, and they give to the musicians in the way they want -- when and to who.

"Most of the things I bought outside of Cuba, in my travels," he said. "My trumpet mouthpiece and everything."

Sandoval waited for the opportunity to get his wife and son out of Cuba before asking the United States for political asylum. It is difficult, he said, to get the government's permission to take family members on travels outside the country. But before he began a six-month European tour in May, Sandoval said, he told Cuba's Ministry of Culture: "I don't go to do this tour if I don't have the chance to see my family, because it's a long time. I need you to give a permit to them to travel and spend at least one or two months with me in Europe."

On June 26 in Rome, after Sandoval's band returned to Cuba and the trumpeter prepared to spend the rest of his tour with Gillespie's orchestra, he was joined by his wife and son. And there they were granted asylum through the U.S. Embassy.

Sandoval regrets leaving his band behind -- "they are wonderful friends, wonderful people, and wonderful musicians. I miss them very much" -- but he has brought together a group of musicians in Miami, his new home. "Very young and very good," he said. He'll start rehearsing them this week.

"I think I must make a good recording as soon as possible, with my band or with a symphony orchestra," Sandoval said. "Believe me, I am very anxious to do something over here for my own."

Sandoval's departure comes among a wave of defections from Cuba in recent weeks. He believes they have been inspired by the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. "Everybody says in Cuba, 'All right, what are we waiting for now?' It's impossible to think we are the only people in the world who are right {to hold on to communism} and the rest of the people are wrong," he said. "To believe that is incredible."