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The Machete Ensemble was a Latin jazz band whose twenty-one year organization ended with its final concert on November 12, 2006, when it closed the 2006 San Francisco Jazz Festival. KQED noted that "it seemed like everyone who was ever part of the San Francisco Latin jazz scene was on hand to bid adios to John Santos' Machete Ensemble."
Its main personnel were San Francisco Bay Area musicians John Santos, director, congas, percussion, composer; Orestes Vilató, timbales, bongos; John Calloway, flute, composer/arranger; Wayne Wallace, trombone, composer/arranger; Melecio Magdaluyo, saxophone, clarinet, flute; Ron Stallings, saxophone, clarinet; David Belove, bass; Paul Van Wageningen, drumset; Murray Low, piano; Orlando Torriente, vocals, percussion.
Upon release of its 20th anniversary album in 2005 one music critic considered the band "one of the finest Latin music groups in the country." In 2004, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival cited the Oakland Tribune as designating the ensemble "Brilliant, revolutionary…they drive the temperature through the ceiling. One of the Bay Area's hottest discoveries." The University of Wisconsin, Madison called the Machete Ensemble "a premier San Francisco Bay Area Latin-Jazz ensemble" when John Santos, the band's director was named an artist in residence at its Arts Institute. In 1996, the New York Times considered John Santos "one of the foremost exponents of Afro-Latin music." Santos has also worked with Latin stars like Yma Sumac, Tito Puente, Patato Valdés, Armando Peraza, Lalo Schifrin, Santana, Cachao and Omar Sosa as well as jazz masters like Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Art Farmer, Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner and John Faddis. Max Roach once called John Santos "one of the most creative musicians I've ever had an opportunity to work with; he's a joy for me to listen to..."