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John Santos and Machete: Tribute to the Masters

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In 1975 percussionist-bandleader- Latin music scholar John Santos was cited along with his friend Raul Rekow (Santana) for playing conga drums at Dolores Park in the San Francisco Mission District. It was part of an ordinance written by then supervisor and now U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein to outlaw “bongo” playing which she said led to the consumption of alcohol. It was the truth but this was the university that opened Santos to the artistry and magic of the drum. Now almost 30 years later, this renaissance man is a bonafide West Coast jazz star who maintains the Afro-Caribbean jazz traditions established by Bay Area greats Cal Tjader and Pete Escovedo.

On “Tribute to the Masters,” Santos pays homage to those who have inspired him and demonstrates what a master he has become. “Tin Tin Deo” opens and pays due to Diz and Chano with a refreshing arrangement by trombonist Wayne Wallace. Ron Stallings shines on soprano sax accented brilliantly by the groovy swing of timbalero Orestes Vilato. Cuban sax wiz Yosvany Terry is featured on the folkloric piece “Iyesa” with the buttery trumpet of the legendary Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros on Santos’ original “Himno de la Raza.” Great solos abound but it’s Santos who glues it strong on congas, bata and miscellaneous percussion. Superb dynamics, creative arrangements, flawless musicianship and a spiritual aura make this a top-notch effort.