Born in Panama in
1955, Santi moved to New York at age four. His father, an Afro-Cuban
pianist-composer, sparked Santi's early interest in music. By
9, he was studying classical bass in a New York City school for
gifted children. In junior high school he switched to guitar,
playing regularly with a jazz-rock group. At age 14 he heard his
first live jazz, a Billy Taylor Trio school show. Santi was an
instant convert: jazz was the music he wanted to play.
At Union College he
led the school's jazz workshop, playing both guitar and bass,
and taking his first composition lessons. A year at the New England
Conservatory brought Santi back to full time bass playing. An
offer to tour with Archie Shepp cut short his studies; he played
with Archie for the next four years.
In 1981 Santi moved
to Paris where he played with Sam Rivers and led his own groups.
Most notable was one with Chico Freeman, Billy Hart and Kenny
Werner. That group was also the first major group to feature his
originalsthe begining of an ever-deepening commitment to
Returning to the New
York scene in 1985, Santi was soon playing and recording regularly
with giants like Don Pullen, Pharoah Sanders, Louis Hayes and
Arthur Blythe. Within a couple of years he was again leading his
own groups, including an innovative double bass quintet and Euforia,
a Brazilian-flavored trio playing his and Paul Meyer's compositions.
Playing and touring
actively in the early 90s, Santi also started graduate studies
at Wesleyan in ethnomusicology and world music. Out of these interests
grew his current band, Circlechant, combining influences and musicians
from Brazil, Israel, Belize, Cuba and Panama. At the same time,
his academic career is flourishing: he is currently Assistant
Professor of Jazz Studies at UMass.
Santi continues to
compose prolifically and to play with greats of jazz like Hank
Jones, Larry Coryell, Randy Weston, Freddie Hubbard and Cecil
Since his first record
date in 1987, Santi has appeared on over 100 recordings, including
eight as leader. His previous Mapleshade CDs are Jazznost with
Walter Davis Jr., The Offering with David Murray and Euforia.