Amazon.com Widgets

John Santos: Keeper of the Culture

John Santos: Keeper of the Culture
By Published: | 8,568 views
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 Israel "Cachao" Lopez
Israel
Israel "Cachao" Lopez
1918 - 2008
bass, acoustic
,Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
, Tito Puente
Tito Puente
Tito Puente
1923 - 2000
band/orchestra
, Bebo Valdes
Bebo Valdes
Bebo Valdes
1918 - 2013
piano
, Armando Peraza
Armando Peraza
Armando Peraza
b.1924
congas
, Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri
b.1936
piano
, Carlos "Patato" Valdes
Carlos
Carlos "Patato" Valdes
1926 - 2007
congas
, Francisco Aguabella
Francisco Aguabella
Francisco Aguabella
1925 - 2010
congas
, Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
, Steve Turre
Steve Turre
Steve Turre
b.1948
trombone
and Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros.

Born in San Francisco to Cape Verdean and Puerto Rican parents, Santos was exposed to a fertile musical environment which shaped his career in a unique way. As director of Orquesta Tipica Cienfuego and the award-winning Orquesta Batachanga, he was of the pioneers of salsa to the San Francisco Bay Area. As leader of the seminal jazz group Machete Ensemble, Santos was also instrumental in bringing traditional Afro-Cuban and other Latin American music to the area. Santos is also respected as one of the top writers, teachers and historians in the field, having conducted numerous lectures, workshops and clinics in the Americas and Europe, as well as writing about the music for numerous publications.

Santos also has a prolific career as a distinguished and creative multi-percussionist and recording artist, mainly with Machete Ensemble. His diverse credits also include working with Israel "Cachao" Lopez
Israel
Israel "Cachao" Lopez
1918 - 2008
bass, acoustic
, Tito Puente, Bobby Hutcherson
Bobby Hutcherson
Bobby Hutcherson
b.1941
vibraphone
, the Cuban band Grupo Mezcla, Lalo Schifrin
Lalo Schifrin
Lalo Schifrin
b.1932
band/orchestra
, Irakere, Santana, Cal Tjader
Cal Tjader
Cal Tjader
1925 - 1982
vibraphone
, Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
b.1966
piano
, Ignacio Berroa, Omar Sosa
Omar Sosa
Omar Sosa
b.1965
piano
and Jon Jang. In 2006, after a 20-year run, Santos disbanded the Machete Ensemble and is now playing with a jazz sextet which. comprised of some of his old comrades from that group, has released Filosofia Caribena, Vol.1 (2011) and Filosfofia Caribena, Vol. 2. (2013). Both of these recordings, released on Santos' Machete Records, are an homage to the richness of the Caribbean and Latin American cultures, to which Santos refers as Creole culture.

Santos was also named Resident Artistic Director of the SFJAZZ Center for the year 2012-2013, an honor shared with Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
b.1951
guitar
, Jason Moran
Jason Moran
Jason Moran
b.1975
piano
, and Regina Carter
Regina Carter
Regina Carter
b.1966
violin
.

All About Jazz: What made you decide to be a musician?

John Santos: My dad, from Cape Verde, was a musician who played guitar and accordion; In addition, both of my grandfathers, from Cape Verdean and Puerto Rican, were musicians. So, I kinda fell into the family business.

AAJ: What led you to playing congas and other percussion?

JS: In African and Caribbean cultures the drums lead you into a spiritual path as they are used not only for playing for entertainment purposes but also for religious and spiritual ceremonies. In addition to playing congas and other drums, I am also trained to perform on the Nigerian bata drums for religious services.

AAJ: Your first band, Orchestra Tipica Cienfuegos, was considered to be the top Latin dance band during the'70s, What set it apart from other Latin groups?

JS: Tipica Cienfuegos was structured as a charanga orchestra, a traditional Afro-Cuban setup which is comprised of violinists and a flutist instead of horns. However, instead of playing the traditional danzones, we played more modern dance music like Los Van Van. Now, with Orchestra Batachanga I mixed the rhythms of the bata with modern Latin dance music.

AAJ: You have performed with practically every master Afro-Cuban drummer who has roamed the earth during the last 40 years. Who were the ones who had the deepest influence on your music?

JS: It is hard to say, because all of them were great. In the Bay Area, we were blessed to have Armando Peraza
Armando Peraza
Armando Peraza
b.1924
congas
and Francisco Aguabella
Francisco Aguabella
Francisco Aguabella
1925 - 2010
congas
living here. I also count Mongo Santamaria
Mongo Santamaria
Mongo Santamaria
1922 - 2003
percussion
, Candido
Candido
Candido
b.1921
congas
, Carlos "Patato" Valdés and Julito Collazo among my major influences. Other musicians whom I count as influences as well as mentors include the great Afro-Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez, trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros and the great timbalero, Orestes Vilato, with whom I was blessed to have played for many years. In the jazz idiom, I was blessed to have Dizzy Gillespies a mentor, as well as having the opportunity to play with him. I also had admiration for Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
, Steve Turré, John Handy
John Handy
John Handy
b.1933
saxophone
, McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
and Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
.

comments powered by Disqus
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Mort Weiss

Mort Weiss

About | Enter

Rotem Sivan

Rotem Sivan

About | Enter

Michael Carvin

Michael Carvin

About | Enter

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash

About | Enter

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

A musician was found with a matching name

Name:

Birthday:

Instrument:

Is this you?