The last several recordings by noted West Coast Afro-Caribbean percussionist John Santos have riveted listeners and critics alike. This third volume in his series – Filosofía Caribeña Vol. 3 – A Puerto Rico Del Alma is no exception. The reason is that Mr Santos employs an absorbing cultural pedagogy in the manner in which he composes and plays music thematically united to each of the theses of his recordings in this [Filosofía Caribeña] series. The Afro-centric rhythmic architecture of all of his music bends like a reed in the wind as he traverses the cultural topographic oceans of Afro-Caribbean music – from Mother Africa, via Europe to the islands that dot the Atlantic, Pacific Oceans and Caribbean Sea. Being a West Coast musician, has its privileges; the most important of these is that being away from the heat of New York’s concrete heat enables Mr Santos’s music to be awash with the surf of the Pacific, which ebbs and flows as it brings with it messages from the Mother country.
This is what gives the music of the John Santos Sextet its laid-back warmth. However, make no mistake, Mr Santos is a Renaissance man when it comes to Afro-centric cultural topography. This is what gives his music that intangible fourth dimension; something informed by profound learning, making it a deeply pedagogical experience. But it [his music] is never dry. It is, in fact, riotously joyful. His music is staged, rather than performed. Listening to Filosofía Caribeña Vol. 3 – A Puerto Rico Del Alma, for instance, one is struck by how much storytelling is contained in it, for Mr Santos is a griot albeit an urban one. By inference, his music unfolds – song after song – as if a one-act Afro-Caribbean opera were being staged – not a gripping drama, no doubt, but each song teases out strands of stories – in this case of Puerto Rico – in an eloquent and effervescent manner. No, not a gripping drama, but entertaining in its way.
The vocal music is lyrical, even poetic and tells its stories as if the musicians were dancing traditional Puerto Rican dances in the studio as they went in to record this music – Bomba sin Bomba is a superb example. There are also vivid sketches that bring into the limelight, proverbial larger than life figures such as the diminutive genius Giovanni Hidalgo in a song named after him. Mr Santos’ fabulous arrangements forge brass and woodwinds into the wall of percussion that he, himself, builds with his powerful percussion-painter’s hands, leading pianist Marco Diaz drummer David Flores, and the iconic bassist Saul Sierra [and other guests] as if in the musical battle of their lives. Towards the end of the recording, from the underlying didactic messages of América Unida – and especially on A Chichito Cepeda and on the celebratory and elegiac Recuerda, the brass and woodwinds of the earlier music is stripped away, and the music is set aflame – and glows with a dark African-ness, made almost entirely of percussion and voice.
Another important characteristic of John Santos recordings is the celebratory nature of the whole enterprise. He assembles hand-picked guests as if populating his sound world with an unique world-vision that is steeped in his African-ness. The guest-list is typically long. John Santos is not a arms-length kind of human being. Everyone who shares his music by extending an invitation to the whole tribe. The significance of this ought never to go unnoticed. Music is, after all, a joyful sound made by the whole community. The John Santos Sextet & Friends reminds us of this fact yet again on Filosofía Caribeña Vol. 3 – A Puerto Rico Del Alma. It is a celebration not only of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, but in fact it is a celebration of life itself.
- Listen and Buy this album from the John Santos Official Website
- The John Santos Sextet: A Puerto Rico del Alma – Concert Review
- Album Review – The John Santos Sextet & Friends: Filosofía Caribeña Vol. 1
- Album Review – The John Santos Sextet & Friends: Filosofía Caribeña, Vol. 2
Music – 1: Bomba sin Bomba; 2: Giovanni Hidalgo; 3: No Me Mientas Más; 4: No Pongas Escalera; 5: Plenamente; 6: La Brega; 7: América Unida; 8: A Chichito Cepeda; 9: Recuerda.
Musicians – John Santos Sextet – Dr. John Calloway: flute [1 – 5]; Melecio Magdaluyo: tenor saxophone , baritone saxophone ; Charlie Gurke: baritone saxophone [1 – 3, 5], tenor saxophone ; Marco Diaz: piano and trumpet [1, 2]; Saul Sierra: bass [ 1 – 3, 6], contrabass [4, 5], David Flores: drum set [1 – 6]; John Santos: congas [1, 2, 5}, tumbadoras , quinto [1, 8], güiro , timbales , bombo , bongos , bells [2, 7], chékere [2, 8], panderatas [3 – 5], requinto [4, 5], güicharo [4, 5], barriles [subidor, buleador – 6. 8; buleador (yubá) – 8], maraca , bells , cajón , claves , cuá (siká)-9], triangle , lead voice outro , and coro. Guest Musicians – Jimmy Bosch: trombones ; Anthony Carrillo: quinto and conga , panderata [requinto-7], güicharo  and barriles [buleadores, subidor-9]; José Clausell: pandereta (seguidor) , timbalitos , cuá (yubá) [9, bell (siká)-9]; Quique Dávila: lead voice and accordion ; Christelle Durandy: lead voice  and coro [1 – 4, 7]; José Luís Gomez: coro [7, 8]; José Roberto Hernández: lead voice  and coro [2 – 4, 6]; Giovanni Hidalgo: tumbadoras ; Willie Ludwig: coro ; Tito Matos: lead voice, güicharo, requinto and coro ; Manny Martínez: lead voice ; Beatríz Muñiz: coro ; Harold Muñíz: katá ; Javier Navarette: tumbadora (segunda), barrile (buleador) and maraca ; Christian Nieves: cuatro ; Pedro Pastrana: cuatro [4, 6]; Juan Luís Pérez: lead voice and coro ; Sandy Pérez: tumbadoras ; Fito Reinoso: lead voice ; Eddie Resto: bass [7, 9]; Sandra García Rivera: coro ; Ismael Rodríguez: coro [8, 9]; Félix Samuel: lead voice ; Orlando Torriente: coro ; Bárbara Valadares coro ; Elio Villafranca: piano .
Released – 2023
Label – Machete Records
Runtime – 43:40
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