Over the next 10 days we will be shining a spotlight on some of the talented performers you will hear during the upcoming Five Points Jazz Festival, one of Denver’s best annual musical events. For schedule information, got to kuvo.org.


She shares a surname with a music legend, but Janine Santana is making a mark all her own in the world of Latin jazz. You can see her and her 6 piece ensemble at the Five Points Jazz Festival on the Plaza Stage, from 4-5 pm, on May 21.  She’ll be the one playing the “groove-driven conga,” as she describes it. You can also listen to her every Sunday from 4-6pm on the radio program she hosts, Salsa con Jazz on Jazz89 KUVO.

Santana, of both Puerto Rican and Finnish descent, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Trenton, N.J. She studied acting for many years but switched her focus to music and broadcasting when she moved to Colorado in 1994. A percussionist, leader, arranger, side player and studio artist, her life-long love of Afro-Cuban and Caribbean music found the freedom to flourish in the Rocky Mountains. She released her first album, Soft as Granite, in 2009, and is currently at work on her second, which is being produced by Ricky Gonzalez. She says this new release will feature internationally renowned artists and a few surprises, too.

Santana said it was quite a transition going from performing live in front of theatre audiences or concert goers to broadcasting from a radio booth, where your audience is invisible. As she told writer Peter Furlong in a 2014 interview, “It really freaked me out trying to wrap my head around the fact that there were live people listening to what I was presenting as a radio host because I was in the studio all by myself—talking to my reflection in the booth window. Now, I enjoy it immensely because I know the people are just on the other side of the computer stream or air frequency.

“Live music is easier for me,” Santana continued, “because I am making the music in conjunction with other live people on an instrument that is second nature. For radio, there was a learning curve in running a soundboard, typing into a live playlist, hitting the right buttons at the right time, and remembering what I played; and, what I played was someone else’s prerecorded music. It’s not the same!”

With her transitional days well behind her, Santana excels at live performing, studio recording and on-air hosting. Check out the Janine Santana Latin Jazz Ensemble for yourself at the Five Points Jazz festival and, if you  haven’t already, be sure to tune in to Salsa con Jazz every Sunday on KUVO. This creative transplant does not disappoint!

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