Remembering Ray Santisi

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1933 – 2014

”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 June 2nd, 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.

Ray Santisi has been a staple at the Berklee College of Music since he attended the school and graduated in 1954. In 1957, he began teaching at the college, giving his vast knowledge of music to many students at the school over the years; teaching at the college would become a huge part of Ray’s life and career. Ray was a professor of harmony and piano. Ray had a rudimentary and human approach to teaching the piano. He once said, “I tell my students, ‘Whatever your background is—Asian, Latin, African American—you have a voice that comes through [your] DNA; it comes through your culture. So look for that, and protect it, and try to nurture it, not only for its wonderful basic roots, and extend your technical knowledge to enhance that.’”

“To add spontaneity, I say, ‘Okay, you’re in a recording studio now. You’re playing a concert. Here’s the tempo. Play.’ I tell students to push aside technical intricacies, try to sidestep ‘analysis paralysis,’ pull in their training, and just use the ear. It’s a total immersion, letting go of the theoretical material and making learning more of a call-and-response situation.”

During the course of his career in jazz education, Ray wrote Berklee Jazz Piano and Jazz Originals for Piano and became one of the first musicians to start jazz workshops in Boston. A man who always gave back to his community, Ray was the co-owner of Stables Jazz Club and enjoyed a long stint as the resident pianist for the Boston Pops.

Not only was Ray an outstanding teacher and friend to his students, he was also an internationally accomplished musician. Ray performed and recorded with jazz’s best: Charlie Parker, Natalie Cole, Stan Getz, Mit Jackson, Buddy DeFranco, and Joe Williams are among the greats with whom Santisi collaborated. Ray also worked as a pianist, arranger, and composer for several record labels over the span of his career. Ray Santisi was a featured musician on Blue Note, Capitol, Prestige, Sonnet, Roulette, United Artists Records, Bethlehem, Transition, and Rasan record labels. Ray also has written several notable pieces of music for BMI.

Ray Santisi was an outstanding educator, pianist, composer, arranger, friend, and much more. He surely has made a lasting impression on his many students, his colleagues, and Berklee College of Music as a whole.

BMI Compositions & Work #’s
1. LESS TALK 850876
2. LIKE BLUES 871895
3. LITTLE SUE 883296
4. MINSTREL EYES 994378
5. MOON MIST 1007633
6. MOSE KNOWS 1013249
7. PENDULUMS 1162959
8. PERRYSPARASOL 1167560
9. SAM SPEAKS 1285483
10. SAPPHIRE 1289924
11. TAKE TWO 1452520
12. THEMEFORJOHN 1484664

Discography

  • - Stan Kenton Presents (Capitol Records, 1954 and 2001, Toshiba EMI, Japan)
  • - Boston Blow-Up (Capitol Records, 1955 and reissued 2001)
  • - Byrd Blows on Beacon Hill (Transition, 1956 and reissued 2001)
  • - Life is A Many Splendored Gig (Roulette, 1957)
  • - The Band And I (United Artists, 1959)
  • - Boringuin (Sonnet Records, 1975)
  • - Spellbinder (Rasan Records, 1990)
  • - The Transition Sessions (Blue Note 2002)
  • - Dick Wetmore (Bethlehem Records)
  • - Meet Me In The city (1620 Jazz Records, 2004)
  • - Live @Ryles Jazz Club, (Independent, 2005)
  • - Symbio Obbligato(Independent 2011)
  • - Live @Ryles Jazz Club, Set 2 (Independent, 2005)
  • - Live @Ryles Jazz Club, Set 3 (Independent, 2005)

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          February 11, 2017