by Kevin Callan
Venissa Santi’s Afro-Cuban, smooth-jazz style demonstrates her identity as a Cuban-American. Although she is normally backed by a larger band, the Venissa Santi Quartet will feature nothing more than Santi’s vocals backed by a pianist, bassist and percussionist. The members of the quartet include John Stenger on piano, Jason Fraticelli on bass and Francois Zayas on drums.
Born in Ithaca, N.Y., Santi’s talents are rooted in the compositional skills of her grandfather, Jacobo Ros Capablanca, who came from a family of talented musicians, and her mother, who taught her to sing harmonies. She graduated from the Philadelphia University for the Arts with a major in Jazz Vocal Performance, and she won the prestigious Pew Fellowship for Folk and Traditional Arts in 2008.
Santi signed with Sunnyside Records in 2009 and released her first album “Bienvenida,” which features the slow ballad “Embraceable You,” as well as the bluesy hit “Como Fue.” The album quickly went to number three on radio host and jazz expert Bob Parlocha’s list of top 10 recordings, and many fans praised her as the new and improved Gloria Estefan.
Santi’s second and most recent album, “Big Stuff: Afro-Cuban Holiday,” released in 2013, features elements of jazz and blues, as well as Santi’s Cuban roots. The album features mainly soft piano ballads like “You Better Go Now,” which is backed by a subtle clave rhythm – a rhythm made popular by Afro-Cuban music – but songs like “Stormy Weather” offer a quick escape from these ballads to more of an upbeat, classic jazz piece.
The Pastorius Park concert series is produced every year by the Chestnut Hill Community Association and is sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Fund and Chestnut Hill Hospital.
If it rains, the concert will be moved to the Lower School Auditorium of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Cherokee Campus. Be sure to check chestnuthill.org, where notice of a rain move will be posted after 6 p.m. the day of the concert.