The John Santos Sextet - Bio

Classic Latin Jazz from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the US, and other Latin American sources.

John Santos – congas, percussion 
Saul Sierra – bass 
Marco Diaz – piano 
John Calloway – flute, percussion 
Charlie Gurke – saxes 
David Flores – drumset 

Multi-Grammy nominee and USA Fontanals Fellow, John Santos, and his stellar Sextet shed light on the historical and cultural significance of Latin Jazz, as well as its aesthetic characteristics pertaining to instrumentation, rhythm, interpretation and improvisation. Organized in 2003, they specialize in exciting concerts and educational presentations from lecture/demonstrations to detailed clinics focusing on any number of relevant subjects such as composition, arrangement, rhythmic development, stylistic interpretation, studio performance, etc. Their repertoire consists of exciting original arrangements of Latin American classics and Jazz standards from the US, as well as original compositions. Equally at home with a dance or concert repertoire, The John Santos Sextet presents a wide range of styles and rhythms for audiences of all ages. 

The remarkable legacy of studio recordings by The John Santos Sextet has earned the respect of international radio programmers, peers and the public for the inspired writing and playing, constellation of guest stars, and quality of production. The first five CDs were all published on John’s Machete Records label, the newest (6th) project is with the legendarySmithsonian Folkways label. 
Papa Mambo (2007) 
Perspectiva Fragmentada (2008) 
Filosofía Caribeña Vol.1 (2011) 
Filosofía Caribeña Vol.2 (2013) 
Siempre Clásico – featuring Ernesto Oviedo & Orestes Vilató (2014) 
Art of the Descarga (2020) 

Bassist, composer, arranger, educator Saul Sierra, was born and raised in México City and graduated from the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999. Saul has been a performing/teaching artist in the SF Symphony’s Adventures in Music program for many years. He is currently among the most in-demand bassists on the local scene in the Latin Jazz and Salsa fields, having added his rock-solid rhythmic and harmonic foundation to recordings and performances with Bobi Céspedes, Jackeline Rago, Fito Reinoso, Charanson, Dr. Loco, Maria Márquez, Jesus Diaz, the San José Jazz Collective, and John Santos and The Machete Ensemble among many others. Saul is also a founding member of Visión Latina. 

Dynamic pianist, trumpet player, composer, arranger, producer, and educator Marco Diaz, is also among the busiest musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a graduate of San Francisco State University and is part of the Faculty at the Community Music Center in San Francisco. He’s been a performing/teaching artist in the SF Symphony’s Adventures in Music program for many years. He’s performed with Cachao, Jimmy Bosch, Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, Jackie Ryan, and Jovino Santos Neto. Marco’s exciting playing can be heard with some of the most popular groups in the Bay Area including Charanson, Jesus Diaz, and Mazacote. Marco is the musical director of the Bobi Céspedes band. He is a founding member of Visión Latina and has released two CDs under his own name! 

Exciting flautist, Dr. John Calloway, is a noted multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and educator active in the vibrant San Francisco music scene since the mid 1970s and teaching music in the public school district since the late 1980s. He is co-founder and director of the Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble of San Francisco and has been faculty at SF State University for almost two decades. He is a founding member of John Santos’ Machete Ensemble (1985), and has written and arranged for countless groups in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. He has released two CDs as a band leader. He’s performed with Batachanga, Benny Velarde, Charanson, Cachao, Conjunto Libre, Charanga 76, Rey Reyes, and Charlie Rodriguez. 

Extraordinary saxophonist Charlie Gurke, is a multi-instrumentalist (alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax) composer, and educator active in the jazz and latin music scenes in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can hear him perform at venues and festivals around the bay with his own ensemble, Gurkestra, with Cuban son quintet Latido, with the Electric Squeezebox Orchestra directed by Erik Jekabson, and with the salsa band Candela. Charlie teaches jazz ensembles and jazz history at Laney College in Oakland, CA, has been an artist-in-residence at the SF School of the Arts, and a performing artist with the SF Symphony’s Adventures in Music program. Charlie directs the Community Music Center of San Francisco’s Jazz Ensemble. He holds a BA in music composition from Cal State East Bay, and an MM in jazz studies from the University of Oregon, where he was a graduate teaching fellow. 

Versatile drummer/percussionist, David Flores, is a highly sought after studio and concert musician and teacher who has performed and recorded with Lauryn Hill, Donna Summer, Francisco Aguabella, Pete Escovedo, Jesus Diaz, John Santos, Steve Turre, Peter Erskine, Bobi Céspedes, Mark Levine, Ray Vega, John Calloway, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Los Mocosos, and Ska Cubano among many others. 

Multi-percussionist, John Santos, is a major exponent of Afro-Latin music through innovative use of traditional forms and instruments with contemporary music. He’s been a prolific performer, composer, teacher, writer, radio programmer, and record/event producer for over 50 years, having worked with acknowledged masters such as Cachao, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Bebo Valdés, Max Roach, Eddie Palmieri, Patato Valdés, Francisco Aguabella, Steve Turre, McCoy Tyner, Batacumbele, Omar Sosa, Giovanni Hidalgo, Negro Hernandez, Eddie Marshall, and Carlos Santana. John is a member of the Latin Jazz Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution. He has conducted countless workshops, lectures and clinics in the US and Europe since 1972 at institutions of all types including the Adventures in Music program of the San Francisco Symphony, the Berklee School of Music in Boston, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, Duke, the Universities of Wisconsin at Madison and Milwaukee, the University of Michigan, Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State Hayward, Cal State Sonoma, Cal State Sacramento, Cal State San Jose, Tulane University of Louisiana, The Jazz School in Berkeley CA, Jazz Camp West, the Los Angeles Music Academy, College of San Mateo, and La Universidad Inter-Americana in San Germán Puerto Rico. He was the founder and director (1985-2006) of the internationally renowned, Grammy-nominated Machete Ensemble, who released nine CDs with special guests from Puerto Rico, Cuba, NY, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, mostly on John’s Machete Records label that was formed in 1984.