Johnny Ray is a famed percussionist and band leader of Puerto Rican extraction. Born in Quebradillas, a small town in the western coast of Puerto Rico, as Juan Zamot, the child, was raised in Aguadilla, and later moved to New York City at age 10. It was in the city of New York where Johnny quickly took a strong interest in the percussive sounds that backed the growing Latin music movement which was pervasive in the city then. Soon, the youthful percussionist knew that his future was geared, not only to becoming a Latin musician, but to being a band-leader as well.
Getting into the music scene as a sideman, basically by playing the timbal and the bongos for the top Latin bands in New York, the percussionist soon discovered his love for another percussion instrument, the conga drum. “The congas allowed me to express my musical feelings more freely”, said Ray in an interview with Juan Moreno Velázquez, of el diario-LA PRENSA in New York, “the congas incited a different fire in me and I fell in love with their sound and their potential to guide the musical feeling into the dancer’s core. Playing the congas was like getting a charge of energy,” Johnny confesses. “The more I played, the more energized I became. That feeling is still with me today and it continues to affect not only the musicians in the band but also the people in the audience.” John then embarked in a never ending process of discovering himself through the instrument and became a highly applied student in the pursuit of mastering his craft as a master percussionist.
After almost four decades as a musician and director of his own band, and forty- three recordings under his belt, Johnny Ray is, undoubtedly, one of the most accomplished salseros in the business. From his beginnings with The Johnny Zamot Band and then Sociedad 76 with well remembered hits like Fat Mama, I Want To Go To America, La Soluccion de la Salsa and Jibarito Mío, to the current edition Johnny Ray and Salsa Con Clase, founded in 1988. Still in the business today, Johnny Ray has been one of the favorite dancing groups for the true salseros in New York City, Puerto Rico and the world. His experience as a solid band leader has also turned him into a music tactician and his sound remains in the vanguard of the newest musical trends. He is definitely one of the most successful musicians in the business blessed with an uncanny ability to foresee the changing trends of music.
Johnny Ray’s readiness to assimilate new styles is undeniable, and every one of the band’s releases can truly attest to this fact. “Call it evolution or adaptation but my music has always reflected the current trends,” states Johnny. “Traditionally, music fans eagerly welcome refreshing changes. I’ve always tried my best to give them exactly that…and I’ve never made a secret about it!”, finished the salsero.
In 1997, as a result of his decision to record and produce his own music, Johnny established JZ Productions, a recording label and a production/booking company. Ten recordings have followed, proving Johnny Ray and Salsa Con Clase’s resiliency during the slowest cycle experienced by Salsa in decades. Without a question, Johnny Ray has firmly established himself as one of the premier band leaders in New York, and his band Salsa Con Clase has, undoubtedly, gained the favor of all dancers that, in itself, is quite an accomplishment.
Johnny Ray and Salsa Con Clase has performed at numerous colleges/universities, festivals, fairs, banquets and private events in Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Panamá, Perú, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela, and all over the United States.
Johnny Ray and Salsa con Clase has shared the stage with artists of the quality of:
Jose Alberto “El Canario”, Marc Anthony, Joe Arroyo, Ray Barreto, Rubén Blades, Cachao, Bobby Capó, Conjunto Clásico, Willie Colón, El Gran Combo, Celia Cruz, Oscar De León, Fajardo, La India, Dimensión Latina, Héctor Lavoe, Millie Quezada y Los Vecinos, Machito, Andy Montañéz, Grupo Niche, Tito Nieves, Tommy Olivencia, Johnny Pacheco, Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri, Sonora Ponceña, Puerto Rican Power, Tito Puente, Louie Ramírez, Jerry Rivera, Tito Rodríguez, Willie Rosario, Eddie Santiago, Bobby Valentín, Johnny Ventura, Fernandito Villalona, amongst many others.