He was the last surviving member of the glory days of mambo preceding what we know today as salsa.
Ray Santos was a Latin musician, was born to Puerto Rican parents on December 28, 1928, in New York City, attended the Juilliard School of Music where he studied saxophone.
He was a Professor at the City University of New York (City College), where he teaches a Band or ¨performance¨ course.
Ray Santos ¨The last of the Mambo Kings¨
He was a musician in the orchestras of Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez. He was also was an arranger and musical director for recordings of Tommy Olivencia, Junior Toledo, Willie Rosario, Lalo Rodriguez, and Rudy Victorino and an Oscar winner in 1992, for the music of the film “The Mambo Kings” starring Armand.
Maestro Santos is a Puerto Rican man who has made significant contributions to Latin music as an arranger, bandleader, and musician.
However, beyond the circles of mambo lovers and Latin music big bands of yesteryear, not much is known about his distinguished professional career in Puerto Rico.
Part of it, happens because of the nature of Ray Santos himself. This is a literate person but with an amiable and accessible character, totally devoid of vanity, presumption, or ostentation exhibited by other music personalities with attainments less than him.
For instance, unless he is asked directly, Ray Santos is not going to say that he participated with three arrangements on the compact disc “Palo Pa’ Rumba” CD of Eddie Palmieri, which received a Grammy Award from the Recording Academy in 1985.
Nor will he say that he also arranged for Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente on the CD “Obra Maestra” which received a Grammy Award in 2001.
For Linda Rondstat he wrote all the arrangements and was the conductor for her CD “Frenesí”, which received a Grammy Award in 1993.
In the movie “Mambo Kings” he was a mambo director and arranger, including the arrangement of “Beautiful Maria of my Soul”, a song that was nominated for an “Oscar®” as “Best Song from a Motion Picture” at the 65th Academy Awards® of the Academy of Picture Arts and Sciences.
In other words, this is a person who has reached a seat of honor in the world of Latin music, is Puerto Rican, and is practically unknown by his countrymen.
On the one hand, the album “Mi Luz Mayor” celebrates the legacy of Machito, Puente, and Rodriguez. And on the other, The great contribution of Ray Santos to Afro-Caribbean dance music.
We would like to present the outstanding professional career of Maestro Ray Santos after he suffered a recent health problem.
Ray Santos passed away at his home died on October 17, 2019, at the age of 90.
Facebook: Ray Santos
By Ewin Martinez Torre
Latin Heritage Contributor
San Juan – Puerto Rico
Jaime Torres Torres