b. 1 November l955, San Francisco, California, USA. Of mixed Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean parentage, Santos was raised in the musical and artistic hotbed of San Francisco’s Bay Area. As one of the foremost exponents of Afro-Latin jazz, he is a respected teacher, historian and writer on the subject and a member of the Latin Jazz Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution, as well as an innovative percussionist, arranger, producer and composer. His studies of the music have led to numerous trips to Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil and Colombia. He has been the leader of three groups: Orquesta Típica Cienfuegos (l976-1980), Orquesta Batachanga (1981-1985), and the Machete Ensemble, which he formed in 1985 (known for the first two years as the Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble).
Santos has also performed and recorded with many of the big names of jazz (including Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Bobby Hutcherson) and giants of the Latin scene (Israel ‘Cachao’ López, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Irakere, Santana, Cal Tjader), and formed a dynamic partnership with Cuban pianist Omar Sosa. Santos has recorded numerous albums with the Machete Ensemble, including Africa: Volume 1, Machetazo! Ten Years On The Edge, and Tribute To The Masters. The latter is dedicated both to the greats of jazz (with imaginatively arranged cover versions of pieces by Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and John Coltrane) and to all those involved in keeping Afro-Latin culture alive, who form the inspiration for the clutch of Santos originals.