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Javi Santiago Plays Rare Solo Night at Jazz Central, February 28

TCJF Twin Cities
Javi Santiago © Andrea Canter

© Andrea Canter

Once a teen prodigy playing piano around the Twin Cities, Javier Santiago went on to study for two years at the acclaimed Brubeck Institute, Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead, and ultimately graduate from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan. After performing on the New York scene for a few years, he returned to the Twin Cities where he has been busy as leader and sideman. At Jazz Central Studios on Tuesday, February 28 (8:30 pm), it’s a rare opportunity to hear Javi perform solo.


Javi Santiago with the Dakota Combo, 2006 © Andrea Canter

Minneapolis native Javier Santiago comes by his musical bent honestly, the son of drummer Mac and vocalist Laurie Santiago, and grandson of Latin percussion master, the late Luis Santiago. Javi began studying piano at age 7, turning to jazz piano and trumpet at age 10, and playing with the bands in middle school and high school as well as the Minnesota Youth Jazz Band and the first edition of the Dakota Combo under the direction of Kelly Rossum. In 2006, Javi was awarded the Jane Matteson Scholarship at the Schubert Club/Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Jazz Piano Competition; the following year he won the David Paulus Scholarship at the same competition. A former student of pianist Tanner Taylor, Javi was selected as a Fellow of the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific after completing high school, where he attended for the maximum two years. During his two-year stint, the Brubeck Quintet was named Downbeat Magazine’s college group of the year for two consecutive years.

Javi Santiago © Andrea Canter

From Brubeck Javi moved on to complete his college studies at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York, graduating in December 2011 after participating in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program at Kennedy Center earlier that year. Since returning to the Twin Cities, Javi has become a significant voice on the local jazz scene, performing  at Jazz Central, The Nicollet (now Reverie), Black Dog, Icehouse, Crooners, and other venues as well as at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. In 2015, Javi released an EP, Year of the Horse, with original compositions. Also in 2015, he was a finalist in the American Jazz Piano Competition, winning the “Finalist in Competition Concert Award,” and in 2016 he received a McKnight Musicians’ Fellowship.

Among a number of ensembles, Javi currently performs with the Steve Kenny Quartet, The Ruckus led by Rodney Ruckus, and the Ted Olsen Quartet, as well as his own trio. In addition to performing and composing, he is dedicated to jazz education, and has served as pianist in the Mentor Program of the Stanford Jazz Workshop. He’ll be on the road again soon with The Ruckus.

This solo night at Jazz Central will highlight Javi’s skills as composer and arranger as well as performer.


Jazz Central Studios is located at 407 Central Av SE in Minneapolis, This nonprofit performance and education space offers music at least six days per week. Donations ($10; $5 students) appreciated to support the musicians and the venue.