Astoria’s Santos pays tribute to Brazilian roots on CD

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Adriano Santos always knew he would play drums. He recollects being drawn to the instrument at 5 years old, pressing his face against store windows and perching beside the stages of local restaurants offering live music in his native Brazil. Now, decades later, Santos asserts with confidence that he couldn’t be happier than he is now — living in Astoria, performing in Manhattan, and recording with some of jazz’s most notable musicians.

Santos’ new release, “In Session,” pays tribute to Brazilian composers who are not well -nown here in the States.

“I decided to record tunes that made an impact on my talent as a musician and tribute to the drummers that play with composers,” Santos said. The album features tributes to musicians like Brazilian jazz drummer and percussionist Airto Moreira and composers Moacir Santos, Toninho Horta and Milton Nascimento.

Although Santos has contributed to numerous recordings with prominent musicians, “In Session” is his first recording as a band leader. Santos says the members of his quintet hold prestigious spots in modern music scene. The album features Helio Alves (piano) David Binney (alto sax) Dende (percussion) and David Ambrosio (AC bass).

Santos said it was refreshing to take charge of his musical output after being a sideman for so long. “It’s a process you go through in New York,” he said. “I realized for the 15 years I’ve been here that I was so busy working with other people and learning material for other musicians that I never had time to stop and do my own stuff ... In 2008 I had a little break from gigs and tours, so I said, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to do my stuff and not wait for the phone to ring.’” That’s when he began putting together the repertoire and choosing the musicians for “In Session.”

But the Brazilian composers featured on the album were not the only musical influence shaping Santos.

“Having two older brothers was a great thing, because they listened to a lot of different styles of music. We’d listen to a variety of pop and instrumental music,” Santos said of his time as a child in Brazil. “We’d go to clubs that would play videos from the U.S. and England. I used to talk about how one day I’d be playing live music like that.”

He began his drum studies at Zimbo Trio Music School in Brazil, also known as CLAM, at the age of 12. In 1988 he brought his Brazilian musical influence to the United States when he enrolled at Boston’s acclaimed Berklee School of Music.

“I never turned back. I loved it, the whole vibe at Berklee. There was music all day long,” Santos said.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in Film Scoring, Santos came to New York to attend the City College of New York’s master’s program. It was there that he enjoyed ensemble lessons with jazz legend Ron Carter.

“I think it was the right move [coming to New York]. As soon as I got here, I was the only Brazilian drummer that could read music at that time. That was a big plus for me,” Santos said.

Shortly after settling in New York, Santos started getting gigs outside the college. He thrived on watching other Brazilian performers in the city.

“New York is good because you get to see such great musicians all the time. When you go out at night, you are always learning something new.”

Santos has produced publications in specialized drum magazines and released a new book through Drummers Collective NYC, where he is also part of the faculty. The book is entitled “Afro-Caribbean & Brazilian Rhythms for Drum Set.”

As for future recording endeavors, Santos asserts that a studio album is on its way — this time featuring his own original compositions.

Astoria is now home to Santos, who originally moved to the neighborhood in 1996. After relocating to Manhattan, and then Brooklyn, Santos happily settled back into the eclectic rhythms of Astoria. It’s been nine years.

“I love it,” Santos said. “The vibe, the atmosphere, the culture and, of course, all the Brazilian restaurants.”

“In Session” is available for purchase on, iTunes,,, and

Updated 5:54 pm, October 10, 2011
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