Weekly Latin Jazz Video Fix: John Santos

by chip on May 18, 2010

Each local music scene can point to a hand full of people that nurtured, supported, and accelerated the regional growth of Latin Jazz. It certainly takes the force of an entire community to establish Latin Jazz across a music scene, but there are always inspired individuals that serve as instigators. In most cases, they don’t enter their musical careers with the intention or even desire to change the scene; their passion for the music simply drives them to great heights. They seek out the most challenging and inspiring performance situations and they hold an insatiable thirst for musical knowledge. Their search for new ideas and artistic growth can potentially send them around the world, investigating the hot spots of Latin Jazz culture. Trips to Cuba, New York, and Puerto Rico all become necessary stops in their journey, and they return home with a broad understanding of the music’s inner workings. They inevitably build a context for their own personal expressions with local musicians, sharing their knowledge and building upon the talents of the area. They become mentor figures for the musicians around them, spreading their love of the genre with an addictive energy. Recordings and high profiles performances can make a national impact, bringing their knowledge, musicianship, and skills to a greater base of listeners. This always benefits the local scene, encouraging other musicians to take their Latin Jazz statements into the world. Once these musicians gain momentum around Latin Jazz, their connection to the music only gets stronger, keeping them on a creative path.

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Latin Jazz scene has flourished over the past few decades, due in large part to the hard work and dedication of percussionist John Santos. Born into a musical environment, Santos picked up drums and percussion early, performing with salsa bands throughout San Francisco. He developed a solid respect for tradition that would guide his career, but also an experimental edge, that would keep him exploring new contexts for Latin Jazz. Santos traveled extensively in search of a greater understanding of the music’s history, taking him to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, New York, and more. Along the way, he worked with some of the most important musicians in the genre, including Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri, Francisco Aguabella, Omar Sosa, and many more. These experiences helped fuel Santos’ desire to create his own statements, bringing Latin Jazz into the Bay Area. In the seventies and early eighties, Santos led two groups that showed the massive Latin Jazz potential of the Bay Area scene: Orquesta Tipica Cienfuegos and Orquesta Batachanga. In 1985, Santos formed one of the most important groups in Bay Area Latin Jazz history, The Machete Ensemble, a group that brought together the area’s best musicians into a creative context. Santos and the group released nine albums, worked with musicians such as Cachao, won multiple Grammy nominations, and earned a high profile reputation that built momentum around the Bay Area’s Latin Jazz scene. In 2006, Santos closed the door on The Machete Ensemble, opting to perform with a sextet that includes flautist John Calloway, pianist Marco Diaz, bassist Saul Sierra, drummer David Flores, and saxophonist Melecio Magdaluyo. With two albums under their belt, The John Santos Sextet has continued the tradition of excellence, spreading Latin Jazz throughout the Bay Area community. While maintaining his performance career, Santos has worked as a clinician, lecturer, and educator throughout the world, sharing his extensive knowledge. Santos has been a tireless advocate for Latin Jazz, and his passion has contagiously spread throughout the area.

Today, the San Francisco Bay Area houses a number of world class Latin Jazz groups and individual musicians, largely due to the impressive work done by Santos. In tribute to his years of work in the Bay Area’s Latin Jazz world, today’s Weekly Latin Jazz Video Fix is dedicated to Santos. The first two videos feature Santos’ groundbreaking work with the Machete Ensemble from 1995 and 2005; keep an eye open for some of the Bay Area’s top Latin Jazz musicians including Rebeca Mauleon, Orestes Vilato, John Calloway, Wayne Wallace, and more. The third clip features The John Santos Quintet performing a scorching rendition of Chucho Valdes’ “Mambo Influenciado.” The last piece is an awe-inspiring performance from Santos, playing alongside pianist Elio Villafranca at the Monterey Jazz Festival. There’s some great music from the Bay Area’s best here – enjoy!

John Santos And The Machete Ensemble In 1995

John Santos And The Machete Ensemble In 2005

The John Santos Quintet At The DeYoung Museum

John Santos With Elio Villafranca At The Monterey Jazz Festival

Want to hear more from John Santos? Check out these albums:

Perspectiva Fragmentada

Papa Mambo


Machetazo!: 10 Years on the Edge

Bay Area Latin Jazz fans have a treat in front of them as percussionist, historian, and educator John Santos presents an open clinic/demonstration with the Stanford Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble. The presentation, entitled “The Anatomy Of Latin Jazz” will be held this Thursday May 29th at 12:00 p.m. in the Braun Rehearsal Hall on the Stanford campus – admission is free and open to the public. It’s a great opportunity to learn from one of the Bay Area’s best. The following Monday May 24th, Santos will be a guest artist at the group’s Spring concert, playing some great Latin Jazz charts. The group, led by pianist Murray Low, has been getting insights from incredible musicians all year; the show should be fantastic – don’t miss it!

The Anatomy Of Latin Jazz – clinic/demonstration from John Santos
WHEN: Thursday 5/20/10
WHERE: Braun Rehearsal Hall – Stanford University
541 Lasuen Mall
Stanford, CA
TIME: 12:00 p.m.

Stanford Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble With Special Guest Percussionist John Santos
WHEN: Monday 5/24/10
WHERE: Campbell Recital Hall, Braun Music Center – Stanford University
541 Lasuen Mall
Stanford, CA
TIME: 8:00 p.m.

Do you have a video to contribute to satisfy our weekly Latin Jazz video fix? If so, send it in – it’s time to feed our addiction. I’m looking for live performances, from any context. I’ll most likely be posting one video per week, but if you’ve got another idea, let’s talk. So come on Latin Jazz videographers, musicians, and fans – let’s share some of our memorable videos! Get my contact info HERE.

Check Out These Related Posts:
Album Of The Week: Perspectiva Fragmentada, The John Santos Quintet
Latin Jazz Conversations: John Calloway (Part 1)
Stormy Weather: 6 Latin Jazz Tracks For A Rainy Day
Latin Jazz Photo Album: Stanford Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble

Click here to have these posts delivered via email. Or, click here to subscribe to the full text RSS feed and never miss another post!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: