John Santos says he knew early on that salsa was more than party music.
"Since I was a young person it kind of stuck in my head right off the bat that the importance of the music does not lie in the fact that it’s fun. There’s some very deep, spiritual roots that really tell the story of who we are. That led me to dig into the roots of the music and find out where it’s coming from, so teaching young people is kind of a natural extension of that."
Santos is a well-respected music historian and educator currently teaching at Stanford. His lectures trace the West African and Latin roots of the music. But first and foremost Santos is a musician who’s performed with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Santana. He’s released several albums with his Machete Ensemble and Thursday night he brings his Quintet to Sacramento State University.
"We do some very traditional things and use a lot of traditional rhythms, mainly from Cuba and Puerto Rico, and we mix that with jazz, we do a couple of jazz standards. It’s a very pan-Caribbean, jazz retrospective."
Santos says he likes to see an audience move to his music but he also hopes they come away with more knowledge about its history.
"People are dancing and getting together, that community aspect, which is really cool. But just with a little bit of digging you find that it’s much more profound then that."
The John Santos Quintet will be in concert with the CSUS Latin Jazz Ensemble at 8:00 Thursday night at Sacramento State’s Music Recital Hall.