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SFJAZZ hands its keys to John Santos, Akokan
March 18, 2013, 05:00 AM Daily Journal Staff
The first SFJAZZ Center season is ready to take a turn for the Caribbean.

With eight weeks of its innagural year already in the books, the SFJAZZ Center, the 700-seat Robert N. Miner auditorium opens its doors to San Francisco’s own John Santos and his residency. Beginning on Thursday, Santos, the legendary Bay Area percussionist, will bring major Latino jazz sabor to the state of the art facility in San Francisco.

To start his residency, Santos welcomes De Akokán — the duo of Pavel Urkiza and Ricardo Pons.

De Akokán, which means "from the heart" in Yoruba, is a project based on the 2011 duo album “Buscando la esquina” (Looking for the corner) by Ukranainian-born Cuban singer-songwriter Urkiza and Pons, the Puerto Rican reed expert.

This collaboration explores filín, an expansive Cuban song style that draws heavily on jazz, and rhythms from West Africa, Brazil, the Mediterranean and India.

Far more than a master percussionist, Santos is an invaluable educator and performer. Born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District, he’s been at the center of the Bay Area’s Latin music scene for nearly four decades.

As a visionary band leader and noted historian, he has served on the Smithsonian Institution’s Latin Jazz Advisory Committee. His programming as a Resident Artistic Director reflects his pan-Caribbean sensibility.

Santos’ mark on SFJazz doesn’t stop with De Akokán.

On Friday, March 22, Santos and trombonist, arranger and composer Papo Vasquez present the West Coast debut of Pirates Troubadours, an eight-piece Afro Puerto Rican jazz combo.

Then on Saturday, Santos presents the second installment of his album “Filosofía Caribeña,” a project he premiered as part of the 2011 Spring season, featuring his Latin jazz sextet.

The week closes with Uncommon Time, an explosive multicultural percussion summit featuring Santos, taiko drummer Kenny Endo, tabla master Abhijit Banerjee, and Cuban pianist Omar Sosa.

All shows are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and range from $25 to $65.

The SFJAZZ Center was designed by award-winning architect Mark Cavagnero, acoustician Sam Berkow, theater designer Len Auerbach, and constructed by lead contractor Hathaway/Dinwiddie.

The three-story Center comprises 35,000 square feet in a transparent, LEED Certified structure featuring the state-of-theart Robert N. Miner auditorium adjustable from 350 to 700 seats, the 80-seat multi-purpose ensemble room, rehearsal spaces, digital learning lab, café at sidewalk level, ground floor lobby, retail shop, box office and SFJAZZ administrative offices.

“After 30 years of presenting music in a variety of rented venues throughout the Bay, it is with great joy we announce our first season in our new home, the SFJAZZ Center,” said Randall Kline, the founder and Executive Artistic Director of SFJAZZ last Fall. “The Center is the first free-standing building for jazz in the country, designed from concept to concert hall, to create an enhanced setting for creating and experiencing what the esteemed jazz writer Whitney Balliett calls ‘the sound of surprise.’”

Tickets for Santos’ residency, in particular De Akokán’s show, can be found at

For more information on SFJAZZ, visit

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