Javier Santiago is a true pianist of the new millenium. His music speaks to audiences of every age, background and gender. Santiago is an artistic visionary who embraces traditions in music while forging ahead with innovations in new sounds, technology and concepts. The piano has been always been one of his main mediums of expression and composition – but his music consists of all instrumentations – ranging from big bands, string quartets and the acoustic piano trio to hip-hop beats and the integration of synthesizers, keyboards and other electronics.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN, he grew up being immersed in the close-knit community and rich legacy of musicians in the Twin Cities. His parents were important members of this community. Santiago started playing piano at the age of 5, and was classically trained until he discovered his love of jazz music at the age of 11. In high school, he was a prominent player in the Twin Cities music scene. It was around this time that he started composing and working on his music production skills. During this time he organized his own quintet and produced two albums. He also won the Schubert Club Jazz Piano Competition two years in a row.
In 2007, Javier was selected by the great Dave Brubeck and a panel of judges to be a part of the Brubeck Institute Fellowship program at the University of the Pacific in California. It was there that Javier was able to study with some of the greatest musicians in the world; Christian McBride, Robert Glasper, Nicholas Payton and Joshua Redman to name a few. While at the Brubeck Institute, Javier was fortunate enough to play at venues all across the nation such as the Detroit Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center and Blues Alley (Washington, D.C.), IAJE, and Yoshi’s Jazz Club (Oakland, CA).
The Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet (’08-’09) was awarded Best College Group Of the Year in DownBeat Magazine two years in a row (2009 and 2010).
In 2011, Javier was selected to participate in the 14th Annual Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program. The intensive residency program took place at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The faculty included Curtis Fuller, George Cables, Winard Harper, Dr. Nathan Davis, and other jazz heavyweights.
Javier received his Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Piano Performance in late 2011 at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in NYC – where he studied with numerous jazz legends including Reggie Workman, George Cables, Billy Harper and Jane Ira Bloom. During his time in NYC he played regularly at venues such as Smalls Jazz Club, 55 Bar, The Iridium, and several others. He also was a finalist in the 2015 American Jazz Pianist Competition.
After releasing several beat tapes showcasing his music production skills, Santiago independently released his 5-song debut EP of all original compositions, Year of the Horse in 2015. This release marked the end of his 5-year stay in NYC, where he performed regularly at venues like Smalls Jazz Club and 55 Bar.
In 2016 Santiago became a recipient of the 2016 McKnight Fellowship for Musicians. He returned to the studio to record his debut LP of all original compositions entitled Phoenix with a sextet including his former east coast trio consisting of drummer Corey Fonville and bassist Zach Brown – as well as saxophonists Dayna Stephens and Ben Flocks and guitarist Nir Felder. It features guests such as trumpeter Nicholas Payton, John Raymond and vocalist J. Hoard.
Along with being an accomplished pianist, Javier is also a prolific composer. His work is an eclectic blend of American music – ranging from Jazz and Blues all the way to Hip-Hop and Indie Rock and World music. Javier is also an educator, arranger and producer.