Born: February 1 Primary Instrument: Piano
As anyone familiar with the Boston scene knows, there are few things finer than hearing Ray take on an acoustic piano. But there are different ways to tackle the challenge, and Ray can make any path work. On 6/2 Ray decided to put on a clinic. I'm not a piano player but even in my ignorance I found myself shaking my head in amazement. No doubt any piano player in the audience would have been inspired - or perhaps frightened into giving up the instrument. It was a master indulging in the sheer joy of tackling the possibilities (maybe the impossibilities) of the instrument. I wish there had been a video recorder running. I show up for the surprises and sometimes - as in this case - I am rewarded.” Stu Vandermark, CADENCE Magazine...
I have been aware of Mr. Santisi's virtuosity as a pianist for many decades. Now he has applied his formidable knowledge and experience to a carefully presented analytical approach to aid in developing the reader's technical facility, while encouraging and preserving the unique musical essence and imagination of the individual.-- George Russell, composer, author of Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization
I have known Ray Santisi since I was a teenager in Boston. Ray Santisi would invite me to sit in with the Herb Pomeroy Sextet. He taught many aspiring jazz musicians for many years at Berklee. This all encompassing book will beinvaluable to musicians and teachers alike who pursue jazz improvisation.-- Steve Kuhn, pianist/composer
This is the best piano book I ever encountered! It contains so much information for any musician at any level to become a great improviser. I am so impressed and moved by the fact that Ray has been saving these important ideas and methods over decades. Only Ray could come up with a book like this, because he is not only a great educator, but he also is one of the best musicians in the world. This is a true treasure for so many musicians! And I am so honored to be one of Ray's students.-- Makoto Ozone, pianist/composer
About The Music, Reviewers say . . .
“Quiz Question: When is a sub not a sub? Answer: When the sub is Yoron Israel. At least, that’s one of the first thoughts that hit me when I sat down to catch a couple sets of the Ray Santisi Collective playing to a full house 8/4 at the Terrace Lounge of the Marriott in Copley Place (617/236-5800). And he kept contributing all night. Everyone was so comfortable that when Ray pursued “Poinciana” and the drummer took up a variation on Vernell Fournier’s famous work on the tune on the 1958 Ahmad Jamal disk, Ray “ignored” the persistent pattern and barreled right through. It was not a clash or a test of wills. It was a comfortable demonstration of working possibilities. Of course the two of them could not pull this sort of thing off alone. Ray also had hand-in-glove Greg Loughman on bass and the young Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana sticking to the tenor for the evening. And the audience was not merely large. It was listening. Several times there was applause for Greg’s solos. When the crowd gives some to the bass player, you know they’re awake. And in this case, lucky.” Stu Vandermark, Cadence, Oct,Nov,Dec 2008 edition
BOSTON, MA The echoes of Herb Pomeroy's passing continue. It was difficult not to call to mind the historical links between Herb and the evolution of Jazz in Boston when three men who helped him make history walked onstage 9/25 at Ryles with Marshall Wood and Gary Johnson. The quintet was as fine a straight-ahead lineup as anyone can witness these days, historical or otherwise. The leader/pianist of the group was the pianist of the breakthrough Herb Pomeroy big band at The Stable in the 1950s (and he performed on the band's first two albums back then). The front line of the quintet - - Dick Johnson and Mike Monaghan - - were two favorite soloists in the large Pomeroy outfit of the 1980's, and there's a good deal of work from Johnson and Monaghan on that edition of the band's only LP release. But there was no nostalgia or even mention of Herb onstage this night. They all came to play and they certainly did. By now Wood and Johnson are the bass and drums equivalent of the Nicholas Brothers and it was especially fine to hear how well they connect in the acoustics of Ryles' main room. These guys solo superbly and feed the rest of the band all it can handle. Of course, the other guys can handle anything. Ray Santisi was more focused on leading than taking extended solos, but fans of his work would not be disappointed. And what a brilliant stroke it was to pair Monaghan and Johnson in the front line. It wasn't as if it was a battle of the locked horns, it was more a scenario in which one of the guys would take a brilliant solo and the other man responded in kind, as if to say That solo was so great, I'd better come up with something so I don't let him down. It was one of those gigs in which it was difficult to tell who was having more fun, the soloist or the attentive band mates. Very few straight-ahead Jazz gigs approach this transcendent level. For these guys, that's merely cruising speed. What a fortunate audience. Stu Vandermark, Cadence Magazine, Jan-Feb 2008, Pgs 8-9.
. . . on the evening of 4/26 (during Jazz Week) Ryles was the best jazz club in town, maybe the best anywhere. Ray Santisi brought Mike Monaghan, Marshall Wood, and Gary Johnson with him and they played the kind of music that you could hear at Lulu White's or the good-old-days version of the Regattabar. Even people in the audience far too young to know what good Bop-rooted music is supposed to sound like were oohing and ahhing from different corners of the room. It's not that these guys sound like a quartet led by Jaws or Stitt or Tate (although that's part of why they're as good as they are). It's that these guys could split sets with those bands and nobody would head for the restroom. What a killer weekly Monday gig this group would be at a decent true Jazz club that's committed to the music and fans. It would fill a great hole in our cultural environment. The people who know what this music is supposed to sound like would show up, and the others could know the joy of discovering it for the first time. Stu Vandermark, CADENCE Magazine, July 2007
I caught another fine Ray Santisi gig 3/25 at the Terrace Lounge of the Marriott Hotel at Copley Place (617/236-5800) with regulars Marshall Wood and Gary Johnson taking care of business. One of the pleasant surprises of the evening was the addition of Mike Monaghan on tenor sax. Best known to some fans for his fine contributions to the 1980's version of Herb Pomeroy's wonderful big band, Mike has played in everything from Bop-oriented combos to the Boston Pops. Every now and then Mr. Fiedler and his replacements have needed real Jazz musicians to carry the day, and Mike has been one of those called upon regularly. So regularly that Ray told me he has his fingers crossed that Mike will be free of Sunday evening obligations with the Pops for a while. He wants Mike to be a regular with the Terrace Lounge combo. And why not? The group sounds terrific. On a break I discovered that like many Jazz musicians, Mike comes from a long line of working musicians. In fact, he has the trumpet his great, great grandfather used in the Civil War as a member of a Union Army ensemble from Maine. That's pretty durable lineage. Stu Vandermark, CADENCE Magazine, May 2007
I went to Ryles 2/5 to check out the jazz brunch featuring the music of Patricia Adams, Ray Santisi and friends. It was one of the coldest days of the year; I figured I'd have an easy time getting a good seat. Much to my surprise people were lined up outside the club waiting to get in. I'm a coward. I abandoned the idea of getting a table and carried out an end run by having my meal at the bar. I was able to hear most of what was happening within the quartet above the din. It's easy to say that people show up Sunday mornings to get some food and chat; there is a lot of talking that goes on. But the audience seems to get bigger each time I show up. There has been no change to the menu. Some local convention may account for an occasional increase now and then,. But it would not account for the gradual increase in audience size over time. I doubt that the conversations are improving. Maybe it's the music. Maybe the audience is hearing it better and wants to hear more. I suppose that it's possible really good music could draw a crowd. Maybe that's what's going on . . . CADENCE Magazine, April 2007
If you'd like to do a two-day piano marathon at the beginning of the month, you could start out Sunday (4/1) morning with Ray Santisi at the Ryles jazz brunch (including the bonus of Patricia Adams vocals), move over to the Boston Harbor Hotel's Intrigue Cafe at 2:30 to catch Masako Yotsugi (just to discover that young people can challenge the ear), then to the Terrace Lounge of the Marriott Hotel at 7 to catch Ray Santisi (can't get enough of him) . . . CADENCE Magazine, April 2007
Talking to [Berklee] piano professor Ray Santisi, one is immediately struck by how his conversation mirrors his playing, it's humorous, hip, and a bit elusive. For instance, when asked how old he is, Santisi replies, It's all a number. As to whether he's ever been married, he simply responds, No. Escaped. Listening to his recent CDs, Spellbinder, and Live At Ryles Jazz Club, one hears some of those same lively qualities in Santisi's playing. Whether interpreting the standard, Teach Me Tonight, or grooving hard on One Note Samba, this fixture of the Boston music scene and longtime Berklee faculty member betrays bemusement, a bit of Zen-like detachment, even as he's sitting at the keys. It's the sound only a man who has been playing professionally and teaching for 50-plus years could produce. Peter Gerstenzang, Berklee '77, BERKLEE TODAY, Fall 2006
a man sitting on top of the world, professionally speaking. Ernie Santusuosso, Boston Globe jazz critic
the most exciting piano player I've heard since those first sessions with Bill Evans and Marian McPartland and Oscar Peterson. The Raleigh, N.C. News and Observer
Boston's most in-demand jazz pianist. The Boston Phoenix
10/1 brunch at Ryles . . . when Joe Hunt meets up with Greg Loughman and Ray Santisi. Greg knows where one is, so Joe has the space to reveal all the interior material that most drummers miss. And then there's Ray, perhaps buoyed by the happy connection between bass and drums, dancing even more beautifully than usual (yes, it is possible). No wonder Patricia Adams sounded so upbeat throughout the last two sets that I caught. She had plenty to be happy about, not the least of which is the fact that more and more listeners are showing up. It's food for the ears. CADENCE Magazine, December 2006
“ . . a substitute gig at Ryles 8/5 turned out to be quite a highlight in August. In a town having more than its share of superb bass players John Repucci may be the most underrated. Not by musicians, of course. They know just how good he is. In fact of all the bassists I see somewhat frequently, John reminds me most of my all-time favorite, George Duvivier. Just try to come up with a note that’s closer to perfection than the one he just chose on the gig. And if that wasn’t enough, John was operating in a trio setting with Ray Santisi and Bob Moses, both performing up their substantial reputations. Was there a better straight-ahead piano trio gig anywhere else in or outside Boston on 8/5? I don’t see how it would be possible. And when they weren’t working in a triangle, they were backing up Patricia Adams who was telling stories to a very attentive audience. Oh if all audiences could be that good at the usually noisy club. But maybe they heard what I heard, a vocalist who has developed a rep and who keeps getting better anyway. Vocalist Fulani Haynes guested to good effect. A special evening . . . ” CADENCE Magazine, October 2006
I wonder if the folks who run the Copley Marriott Hotel in Boston know what a treasure they have on their property every Sunday evening. . . . reveling in a weekly event that a growing number of sonic art lovers are discovering--the 6-10 pm Ray Santisi session every week in the Terrace Lounge. Mostly, it's a trio date put together from a small but variable personnel list (including such reliables as Marshall Wood and Gene Roma). Occasionally, its a foursome; Jerry Seeco offered vocal and flugelhorn work when I was there on 5/7 (with Patricia Adams sitting in for a couple tunes). But whatever the configuration, good stuff happens because Ray plays the piano and he refuses to pick bland sidemen. What people such as Hank Jones and Ray Santisi do is rare these days when mere technical flourishes seem to be the central activity of pianist headliners at the major venues. The Terrace Lounge offers fans an opportunity to witness the real thing every week. A perfect example was a relaxed but passionate discussion about music between Ray and one of the regulars during a break. Ray was holding up his end of the conversation with snippets of tunes and relevant sonic permutations. It struck me that Ray was playing more real music on a break than most of the keyboard names do during an entire gig. Also, the gig offers three bonuses--plenty of material written by Parker, Dameron, et al (because Ray began playing that material shortly after it was penned), a surprisingly fine sound system, and no cover charge. Ray Santisi and friends perform every Sun Evening at the Terrace Lounge of the Marriott Hotel at Copley Place (617 236 5800) and every Sat afternoon at the Caravan Club, Revere from 3-7:00 pm (781 284 9559) . . . CADENCE Magazine, July 2006
. . . Ray Santisi, Marshall Wood and Bob Moses opened the set with a romp through the music of George Gershwin, mostly but not exclusively Porgy and Bess material. Of course, it was more than a romp. They played the dickens out of it upside, downside, sideways - and always with a thoughtful understanding of the material. What a joy it is to hear Mr. Santisi let loose on an acoustic piano and with such challenging prodding percussion from Mr. Moses. Two masters giving lessons once each month with an emphatic bass player, usually (as in this case on 6/5) with Mr. Hand-in-glove Bull Fiddler. New York (and off-and-on-Boston) has Monday Night sessions at clubs where big bands shout and master improvisers - Les Paul comes to mind - hold court every week. Students and young journeymen show up to study at the feet/feats of the masters and walk away, shaking their heads and determined to put in more hours. Where is the Monday Night session for this trio in Boston, the Music School Capital of the Universe? You can learn just so much from books and jams and practice. There comes a time when witnessing a living, creative encyclopedia of the art in action is needed to challenge and inspire. And here it was on a Sunday afternoon, just an opener for another set of music by Patricia Adams and Friends. There should be several sets of this trio every Monday somewhere conducive. Until then the people who love the great jazz mainstream have to wait for the first Sunday of every month for the brunch lesson. That's a long wait but the students also get the bonus of seeing how the best musicians help make a fine Jazz vocalist's work seem effortless. That's quite a bonus because you see the support, the heads, the solos, and the give-and-take in classic, evolving form. Patricia Adams has the gig and she knows what to do with it - with the words, with the charts, with the sequencing of events. She knows, for example that sometimes a vocalist with trio can be a duo that leads into another level of four voices. Also she sings as much for the band as she does for the audience, and everyone in the room gets more from each piece that way. The four of them are there on the first Sunday of every month from 10 in the morning to 2:30 (but most serious listeners show up after 12) at Ryles (617 876 9330) Stu Vandermark, Cadence Magazine, August 2005
Life Is A Many Spendored Gig, Roulette Records, 1957, Zoot Sims and The Herb Pomeroy Orchestra: Trumpets: Herb Pomeroy, Lennie Johnson, Augie Ferretti, Joe Gordon, Everett Longstreth Trombones: Gene Di Stasio, Joe Ciavardone, Bill Legan Saxophones: Dave Chapman, Boots Mussuli, Varty Haroutunian, Jackie Byard, Deane Haskins Piano: Ray Santisi Bass: John Neves Drums: Jimmy Zitano
Byrd Blows on Beacon Hill-Transition-1956, 2001-Doug Watkins (b) Jimmy Zitano (d)-Donald Byrd (tr)
BORINQUIN, Sonnet Records, 1975, Ray Santisi original cuts “Pendulums” and “Moonmist”
Buddy De Franco (clarinet)
Ray Santisi (piano)
John Chiodini (guitar)
Spellbinder, RASAN Records, 1995, Whit Brown [b] and Fred Buda [d]
Boston Blow-up-Capitol Records-1955, 2001-Boots Mussulli (as), Everett Evans (b), Herb Pomeroy (tp), Jimmy Zitano (d)-Serge Chaloff (bs)
Stan Kenton Series-Capitol Records-1954, 2001-Max Bennett (b) Shelly Manne (d)-Boots Mussulli (ts)
Donald Byrd,Transition Sessions, Blue Note, 2002, Doug Watkins, Jimmy Zitano, Joe Gordon, Kenny Burrell, Hank Mobley, Duke Jordan, Horace Silver,Art Taylor, Art Blakey
Live @Ryles Jazz Club, 2005, Marshall Wood [b], Bob Moses [d]
RAY SANTISI also plays on:
Donald Byrd -With Strings (Bonus Tracks)-Piano:
Various Artists -Boston Jazz Anthology, Vol. 1-Piano:
Sonny Stitt -Loose Walk-Piano :
Meredith d'Ambrosio -Lost in His Arms-Piano:
Herb Pomeroy -Life is a Many Splendered Gig-Piano:
Serge Chaloff -Boston Blow-Up!-Piano
Independent collaborations include
MEET ME IN THE CITY, Johnny Souza (tr/vo), Barry Smith (b), Gene Roma (d)
Speaking With Angels, Linda J. Chase (fl), Barry Smith [b], Volker Nahrmann (b), Sandi Jo Malmon (cello)
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Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.
Full time piano and harmony professor at Berklee College of Music. Lessons by appointment.
Author, "Berklee Jazz Piano", January 2009 published through The Berklee Press and Hal Leonard
Domestic and international piano and harmony.