For years, Ray Santos has been one Latin Music’s best kept secrets. Not anymore. His arrangement of Beautiful Maria of My Soul for the Hollywood movie, “The Mambo Kings,” was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Song for a Movie Category (1992). He penned the arrangements for tunes such as Perfidia and Quiereme Mucho, sung on the movie soundtrack by Linda Ronstadt. Excited by the power of the Ray Santos arrangements, she quickly contracted him to arrange and conduct the material for an album of Latin standards.
The result of the Ronstadt/Santos collaboration was the release entitled Frenesi, a tour-de force production that earned the Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Album of the Year (1992). On Tito Puente’s 100th Album and Afro-Cuban Jazz progenitor Mario Bauza’s three last productions, Ray Santos’ musicianship pours forth through his big band arrangements.
The Juilliard graduate has played, recorded, composed and arranged for the frontline orchestras in the Latin Music Industry over the past 50 years. Mr. Santos, born and raised in New York City, reveled in the atmosphere of the Big Band Era. During this period he absorbed the popular music of his folk from the Caribbean and the Swing Music of the ‘30s and ‘40s. One night, around 1948, while listening to Symphony Sid on the radio, he heard him announce in that familiar deep voice “Now here’s ‘Bird,’ Charlie Parker soloing with Machito and His Afro-Cubans.” The thrill of that moment still in his voice, Ray excitedly describes his reaction “WOW, This is it! This is the real meeting between Jazz and Afro-Cuban Music.”