Percussionist, composer, teacher and four-time
Grammy nominee John Santos draws upon his
Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean heritage to
illuminate the historical and cultural significance
of Latin Jazz. Santos, a Bay Area favorite who
has played with masters such as Tito Puente, Max
Roach, McCoy Tyner and Dizzy Gillespie and is
known as founder of the Machete Ensemble, brings
together styles, rhythms, concepts and artists from
different generations in a vibrant and uplifting blend
that appeals to listeners of all ages. Recognized
not only as a heavyweight player but also for his
scholarship and deep understanding of the history
of Latin jazz, his SJW concert will feature original
compositions from his quintet’s debut CD, “Raices
Al Cielo” (“Roots to Heaven”), along with exciting“not
so standard” standards from Latin America and
In order to get to know him better, we asked
John to answer a few questions. Here’s
what he had to say:
What’s the strangest experience you’ve
ever had on the bandstand?
Being scolded and then fired by certified loon Yma Sumac
during her comeback
about 15 years ago after she forgot the lyrics to the song (which
had been in her
repertoire for some 40 years) and stormed off stage in a fit as
the sold out house
Fresh organic fruit (in season of course).
What’s the most exotic place you’ve
traveled to as a musician?
I wouldn’t use the word exotic to describe any of the
places in the Americas or
Europe to which I’ve been, but Cuba is a most fascinating place
for the vitality
and vibrancy of her people and especially as expressed through the
What’s the last book you’ve
“Nationalizing Blackness” by Robin Moore.
If you could be any
other type of artist other than a jazz musician, what would you
be and why?
A poet—to hopefully touch people deeply and make them think
in different terms.
When did you become interested
in music, and what circumstances or events led to
your becoming a professional musician?
My earliest childhood memories are of my grandfathers on both
sides of the family
playing music to the delight of family and friends. My first professional
work was with
my grandfather’s band at the age of 13.
To find out more about John, go to johnsantos.com