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John Santos

Seven-time Grammy-nominated percussionist, US Artists Fontanals Fellow, and 2013-2014 SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director, John Santos, is one of the foremost exponents of Afro-Latin music in the world today.

Born in San Francisco, California, November 1, 1955, he was raised in the Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean traditions of his family, surrounded by music. The fertile musical environment of the San Francisco Bay Area shaped his career in a unique way.

His studies of Afro-Latin music have included several trips to New York, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil and Colombia. He is known for his innovative use of traditional forms and instruments in combination with contemporary music, and has earned much respect and recognition as a prolific performer, composer, teacher, writer, radio programmer, and record/event producer whose career has spanned five decades. John has performed and/or recorded with acknowledged, multi-generational masters such as Cachao, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Bebo Valdés, Max Roach, Eddie Palmieri, Patato Valdés, Lázaro Ros, Bobby Hutcherson, Manny Oquendo, Chucho Valdes, Paquito D’Rivera, Buenavista Social Club, Chocolate Armenteros, John Handy, Billy Cobham, Zakir Hussain, Hermeto Pascoal, George Cables, Generoso Jimenez, Joe Henderson, Ernesto Oviedo, Regina Carter, Chester Thompson, Francisco Aguabella, John Faddis, Ed Thigpen, Giovanni Hidalgo, Steve Turre, McCoy Tyner, Batacumbele, Poncho Sanchez, Omar Sosa, Mel Martin, Ignacio Berroa, Danilo Perez, Los Pleneros de la 21, Jose Luis “Changuito” Quintana, Armando Peraza, Pancho Quinto, Tootie Heath, Art Farmer, Pupy Pedroso, Jacqueline Castellanos, Malonga Casquelord, CK Ladzekpo, Pancho Terry, Juan De Dios Ramos, Carlos Aldama, Yosvany Terry, Dafnis Prieto, Oscar Castro Neves, Mark Murphy, Orkestra Rumpilezz, Larry Coryell, Lázaro Galarraga, Regino Jimenez, Luis Daniel “Chichito” Cepeda, Modesto Cepeda, Guillermo “Negro” Triana, Lázaro Rizo, Raul “Lali” Gonzalez, Amado DeDeus, Pedrito Martinez, Jose Lugo, Jerry Medina, Orestes Vilató, Kamau Daaood, Johnny Rodriguez, Sonny Bravo, Arturo Sandoval, Nestor Torres, Anthony Carrillo, Paoli Mejías, Raul Rekow, Andy Gonzalez, Jerry Gonzalez, Jovino Santos Neto, Lalo Schifrin, Gema y Pavel, Pete Escovedo, Claudia Gómez, Maria Márquez, Jon Jang, Wayne Wallace, Mark Levine, Elio Villafranca, Bruce Forman, Linda Tillery, Charlie Hunter, Joyce Cooling, Bobby Matos, Mark Weinstein, Roberto Borrell, Sandy Perez, Jesus Diaz, Roman Diaz, Pablo Menendez y Mezcla, Yma Sumac, Rhiannon, Larry Vukovich, Kenny Washington, Faye Carol, Kellye Gray, Destani Wolf, Kimiko Joy, Kenny Endo, Abhijit Banerjee, Erik Jekabson, and Carlos Santana, among others.

John is widely respected as one of the top writers, teachers and historians in the field and was a member of the Latin Jazz Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution. He is currently part of the faculty at the California Jazz Conservatory (Berkeley, CA), San Francisco State University, Jazz Camp West (since 1986) and the College of San Mateo (CA). He has conducted countless workshops, lectures and clinics in the US, Latin America and Europe since 1973 at institutions of all types including the Smithsonian, the Adventures in Music program of the San Francisco Symphony, the Berklee School of Music in Boston, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Michigan, Temple University, Brigham Young University, Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State Hayward, Cal State Fresno, the University of Colorado, Yakima Valley Community College, Ohio Music Education Association, the Afro-Cuban Drumming and Dance Program at Humboldt State University (CA), Cal State Sonoma, Cal State Sacramento, Cal State San Jose, Tulane and Dillard Universities of Louisiana, Jazz Camp West, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Los Angeles Music Academy, the Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco), the Lafayette Summer Music Program (CA), the Oakland Public Conservatory, and La Universidad Inter-Americana in San Germán Puerto Rico. He has contributed to the international magazines and publications African Arts Journal, Poetry in Flight, Percussive Notes, Modern Drummer, Modern Percussionist, and Latin Percussionist.

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1
Album Review

Bill Ortiz: Points of View

Read "Points of View" reviewed by Nicholas F. Mondello


Long associated with Carlos Santana, with whom he had a 16-year stint, trumpeter Bill Ortiz steps into the spotlight here with an auspicious and highly entertaining session. Ten selections showcase Ortiz who is supported by some of the Bay area's best. The order of the day is energy, excitement, and an overall superb show. “Sunburst," an Eddie Henderson tune, launches things with a pulsing piano, driving bass, textured rhythms and Ortiz wailing, first using a Harmon mute ...

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In Pictures

Half Moon Bay Wine & Jazz Festival 2023

Read "Half Moon Bay Wine & Jazz Festival 2023" reviewed by Walter Atkins


The Second Annual Half Moon Bay Wine & Jazz Festival took place on historic Main Street Half Moon Bay, with perfect 76° weather and a cloudless sky complementing the day's music and wine tasting. Artists for the HMB Festival included El Guajiro (The Peasant), the Marcus Shelby Quintet, Sammi Joy, Paula West, the Brian Andres Trio and the John Santos Sextet. HMBW&JF 2 was brought together by the Half Moon Bay Downtown Association and volunteers, with support from major sponsors ...

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Album Review

Alex Conde: Descarga for Bud

Read "Descarga for Bud" reviewed by Mark Sullivan


Pianist, composer and arranger Alex Conde has a unique identity; he is a flamenco musician who combines flamenco with his jazz background. After the broad Latin fusion of Origins (Uprising/Ropeadope, 2018), Conde has returned to a focus on classic bebop. Like Descarga For Monk (Zoho Music, 2015), the pianist revisits a foundational bebop pianist. And the recording sessions took place in Oakland, with an ensemble which duplicates many of the players on the Monk sessions. Pianist Bud Powell ...

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Album Review

Alex Conde: Descarga for Bud

Read "Descarga for Bud" reviewed by Troy Dostert


Having demonstrated his mastery of flamenco-flavored jazz on Origins (Uprising/Ropeadope, 2018) by featuring principally his own compositions, pianist Alex Conde has once again turned back to a bebop master of old--continuing a project he began with Descarga for Monk (Zoho Music) back in 2015. In this instance Bud Powell is the dedicatee, and Conde brings characteristic Latin flair to nine of Powell's compositions in a way that is both accomplished and engaging. There is a certain irony to ...

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Album Review

Erik Jekabson Sextet III: One Note At A Time

Read "One Note At A Time" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky


By the time One Note At A Time's first two songs have finished, it's been made abundantly clear that trumpeter Erik Jekabson appreciates a groove as much as he values space. The opener—"Days of Haze"—provides an introductory shot of adrenaline in the form of a tight, funk-framed blues, and “Dusk," in contrast, looks to open vistas, with longer lines and a less-is-more attitude reflecting the liminal spirit in its name. Foreshadowing what's to come, those early offerings prove complementary through ...

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Interview

John Santos: Keeper of the Culture

Read "John Santos: Keeper of the Culture" reviewed by Steve Bryant


In a career spanning almost 40 years, percussionist John Santos has gained world-wide renown and acclaim as one of the great composers and bandleaders in the Afro-Cuban jazz idiom. The four-time Grammy nominee is one of the foremost proponents of Afro-Latin music in the world today, known for his innovative use of its traditional musical forms and instruments. Santos has performed, recorded and studied with acknowledged Afro-Latin and Jazz masters such as Cachao,Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Bebo Valdés, Armando Peraza, ...

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Album Review

John Santos Sextet: Filosofía Caribeña Vol. 1

Read "Filosofía Caribeña Vol. 1" reviewed by James Nadal


John Santos is a sophisticated percussionist with impeccable credentials, so it is no surprise that Filosofía Caribeña, Vol. 1 is a brilliant foray into the broader scope of Caribbean music. As the title infers, there is an inherent rhythmic philosophy ingrained in this music which is as rich and vibrant as the culture which it represents. The John Santos Sextet teams Santos up, once again, with flautist John Calloway, and saxophonist Melecio Magdaluyo. Augmented with a premier ...

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Opinion

The Grammy Travesty Continues: Commentary from John Santos

The Grammy Travesty Continues: Commentary from John Santos

Source: The Latin Jazz Corner by Chip Boaz

In April 2011, the National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences announced the elimination of 31 Grammy Award categories, claiming that the scaling down process made the Grammy Award more important. With the disappearance of categories like Latin Jazz, Traditional Blues, Classical Crossover, Cajun, Hawaiian, and more, artists around the world couldn't disagree more as they anticipate the devastating effect upon their careers. The official telecast of the Grammy Awards is about two weeks away, and unfortunately, NARAS continues to ...

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Performance / Tour

Last Weekend in DC... Delights of the Garden

Last Weekend in DC... Delights of the Garden

Source: The Independent Ear by Willard Jenkins

Last weekend was a great one to be in DC! Friday evening at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium, it was Bay Area percussionist John Santos (see his earlier Independent Ear Q&A feature on his recent folkloric exploration “La Esperanza”) speaking the truth about Afro-Caribbean music and it’s multi- hued expressions as filtered through the jazz experience (which after all owes much of its root source to the Caribbean). The occasion was another of the Smithsonian’s Jazz Appreciation ...

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Interview

John Santos: Breaking Down Barriers in the Latin Music Continuum

John Santos: Breaking Down Barriers in the Latin Music Continuum

Source: The Independent Ear by Willard Jenkins

Bay Area based percussionist-bandleader-educator John Santos is one of the most authoritative musicians I know when it comes to multiple facets of the Afro-Cuban and Latino-Hispanic music continuum. Equally versed in the Latin-jazz vein, salsa and the historic implications of music from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, Santos' latest recording is the exciting folkloric La Esperanza. We sought John out for some wisdom on this latest, thoroughly researched and beautifully executed chapter in the folklore side of his recorded pursuits. As a ...

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Performance / Tour

Omar Sosa and John Santos Reunited @ La Pena

Omar Sosa and John Santos Reunited @ La Pena

Source: All About Jazz

La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley. wwwlapena.org A 33rd Anniversary special: Omar Sosa and John Santos together in a live demo/lecture at La Pena June 6, 2008, 8pm, $15 adv/door La Pea Cultural Center 3105 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley. 510-849-2568 Omar Sosa and John Santos, reunited in a rare duo presentation for the first time in over six years, will share the spiritual/political/musical elements that drive their music. Their debut recording, ...

216

Festival

12th Annual Jazz on 4th St, Berkeley, CA Line-up Announced May 18, 2008

12th Annual Jazz on 4th St, Berkeley, CA Line-up Announced May 18, 2008

Source: Marshall Lamm Promotions & Public Relations

12TH ANNUAL JAZZ ON 4TH STREET FESTIVAL BENEFIT FOR BERKELEY HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ PROGRAMS Sunday, May 18, Noon - 5:00pm On 4th Street in Berkeley, between Hearst & Virginia, FREE! MUSICAL PERFORMANCES BY E.C. SCOTT KHALIL SHAHEED QUINTET JOHN SANTOS QUARTET & THE AWARD-WINNING BERKELEY HIGH JAZZ ORCHESTRA & COMBOS (Berkeley, CA) -- Presented ...

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Performance / Tour

Latin American Songbook, featuring John Santos and Maria Márquez

Latin American Songbook, featuring John Santos and Maria Márquez

Source: All About Jazz

Four renowned musicians from South America, the US, and Europe will join forces to present their own unique telling of The Latin American Songbook in Milwaukee's Latino Arts Auditorium on Friday, October 14 at 7:00 PM. The quartet comprises percussionist John Santos, Venezuelan chanteuse/composer María Márquez, pianist Murray Low and bassist Buca Necak. Together, this extraordinary “All Star" quartet will interpret classic standards by great Latin American composers such as Agustin Lara, Aldemaro Romero, and Armando Manzanero as well as ...

Santos and his cohorts have added significantly to the modern canon of Caribbean-based jazz without adulterating the rhythmic foundations of its Cuban roots -LATIN BEAT

A walking encyclopedia of the history of Afro-Latin music and the societies that created it, Santos is a leading authority on the music -OAKLAND TRIBUNE

Santos has placed the Bay Area on the cutting edge of Latin Jazz -EAST BAY EXPRESS

Santos has been faithfully carrying the Latin Jazz torch on the other coast for years. He has generally been a sparkplug for a wave of musical invention at the vo rtex where Jazz, Latin and other ideas meet -JAZZ TIMES

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Primary Instrument

Percussion

Photos

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Points of View

Left Angle Productions
2023

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Descarga for Bud

Sedajazz Records
2021

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One Note At A Time

Wide Hive Records
2020

buy

Little Wizdoms

UNika Records
2012

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Filosofía Caribeña...

Machete Records
2011

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Papa Mambo

Machete Records
2007

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