The 2023 Healdsburg artist-in-residence, he’s thrived outside of Latin music’s commercial domain by recording and self-producing an expansive, Grammy Award-nominated discography. Celebrating the release of 2023’s Filosofía caribeña Vol.3: A Puerto Rico del alma, the John Santos Sextet takes over the Raven with a blazing set of Latin jazz centered on Puerto Rican and Cuban dance rhythms. The band brims with Bay Area Latin music greats including Dr. John Calloway on flute and piano, Marco Díaz on piano and trumpet, bassist Saul Sierra, drummer David Flores, saxophonist Charlie Gurke, and special guests such as vocalists Jose Roberto Hernandez and Juan Luis Pérez, violinist Anthony Blea, and Orestes Vilató, the legendary timbalero who helped ignite the salsa flame in New York City with the Fania All-Stars.
The evening opens with a screening of the new documentary Santos: Skin to Skin by Kathryn Golden and Ashley James, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. Filmed over the course of a decade, the documentary offers an intimate look at the percussionist on and off the bandstand. In many ways it’s a family portrait that situates Santos amidst a dense web of relationships, including his wife, award-winning author Aida Salazar, and their two children. There’s no shortage of musical peers singing his praises as an inspirational force responsible for expanding the international reach of the Bay Area’s Latin jazz scene. But one of the film’s primary pleasures is that it lets the drums do plenty of talking.
photo by Tom Ehrlich