By Brian Ives
Earlier this week (April 12), five members of the classic lineup of Santana — guitarist Carlos Santana, keyboardist/singer Gregg Rolie, guitarist Neal Schon, drummer Michael Shrieve and percussionist Michael Carabello — shared the stage for the first time, sans instruments. The musicians hosted an event to discuss their first album together in more than four decades. Santana IV, due out tomorrow, is so named because it picks up where 1971’s Santana III left off; III was the last time this particular band recorded together.
The event saw the members of the group discussing their future; they also shared a few other bits of news. And also had, there were many great quotes from Carlos Santana. If you’ve never been in the man’s presence, here’s a primer: he says stuff that makes sense, but only when he says it. If an average human being said any of these quotes, it wouldn’t work. We’ll share some of them with you below, and you’ll understand what we’re saying. But first, the facts that we learned at the event:
- Santana said that the album was inspired by Schon, who originally wanted to make “a guitar album,” where the two of them collaborated with other guitar players. He wasn’t that interested in that idea, however, and for a good reason. “I felt that, between Neal and I, we covered that. With all due respect [to other players], I didn’t want to do a ‘guitar album.’ But my heart surrounded to Neal, because he was so gracious and vulnerable, and his eyes, when he approached me… his heart was reaching out. He was looking at me the same way I look at Wayne Shorter or Herbie Hancock. I’m grateful that he did that. He is the spark that ignited this whole avalanche of energy. I call him ‘Vortex,’ ever since I first saw him as a child, [his playing] wasn’t cute, it wasn’t clever, it was a kick-your-a** vortex. I thought, “How could you be so young and have so much knowledge and fire?” I’m grateful that we’re best of friends and brothers, and that I surrendered to Neal.” Schon released a solo album last year, which was called Vortex, so clearly the name stuck.
- Currently, the band has just two more shows scheduled, but Santana was asked if they plan to perform his music from after the III album. “I want to honor this band, and what this band is. But I want to play three or four songs from the Supernatural band,” referring to his diamond-certified 1999 album Supernatural. “Because with a record like Supernatural, it’s right up there with the Eagles or Michael Jackson, people want to hear those songs, whether it’s ‘Smooth’ or ‘Maria Maria.'” In fact, last night, the members of his current band performed after the classic lineup left the stage, and did some of the more recent hits.
- It was noted that one of the band’s founding members, percussionist José “Chepito” Areas, is not part of the reunion (the remaining founding member of the band, bassist David Brown, passed away in 2000). Rolie said, “‘Chepito’ is, shall we say… difficult. It was much better for the band at this point to have Karl Perazzo, who sings his tail off as well, and he’s played with Carlos for 20 years.”
- Also discussed was another former percussionist, Marcus “The Magnificent” Malone, who got some press recently when Santana learned that he was homeless and invited him to jam with the reunited band. Of Malone, Rolie said, “We wrote a song about Marcus, but it didn’t make it on the album, it was designed for the guy. He disappeared from the planet for a good twenty years, and Carlos sought him out to give him a hug. He got him some congas. The intent was to possibly do something with him, but that song was pretty much where that stopped.”
- As for the future of this band, Shrieve said that Santana IV was the first in a trilogy of albums; Santana merely said that the future of the group “is bright and fruitful.” But he also said that Ronald Isley, who sings on two songs on the new album, recorded many more songs with the band: “We recorded sixteen songs with Ronnie Isley in four days. And that will come out hopefully this fall, I want to call it The Power of Peace.” Last night
Those are all the bits of news that we learned from the event: here are some of Mr. Santana’s best quotes from the event:
“We Are a Fire Tornado”: “This [band] is like, a tornado of fire, we actually ignite ourselves in front of you and we burn in front of you. I’m serious! If I’m going to die, with all the fire that I’ve got, to get to that note… then I’ll die. A lot of people don’t play like that anymore. For whatever reason. When Gregg or Neal takes a solo, it ignites me. It’s like the Black Panthers back then: that was the first thing that they’d ask you. ‘If you want to join the Black Panthers, are you willing to die, right here, right now?’ That was the code. Why should it be less than that? Tony Williams played like that, Miles Davis played like that, Coltrane, Buddy Rich. And you won’t get that sound, unless you play like that. It’s not the amplifier, or the expensive keyboards, no, no, no. It’s your intense intentionality, and that’s what we have.”
“You’re Magnificent, You’re Significant” – “We’re in the business of reminding you, on a molecular level, to go beyond what you’re thinking, and go to that place where you can actually validate your existence. I love that this band can remind everyone: you’re magnificent, you’re significant. And God is not complete without you blossoming. You see the blossoms [outside] right now? They’re so beautiful, even though it’s raining [here in New York]. That’s when the tree is the happiest. God is the happiest when you blossom. So when I take a solo, I actually think of blossoming, and blazing beyond melody, beyond notes, beyond chords. I just think, ‘Oh my God – whooooo!’ Like John Lee Hooker used to say, ‘Mmm mmm mmm.’ And everybody understands what that is: ‘Mmm mmm mmm!'”
“When I go to Ireland, I’m Irish” – “A long ago [I decided] I am a child of God. People say, ‘What’s your sign? What’s your horoscope?’ I say, ‘All of them, and none of them.” To me, my heritage at this point [is]: when I go to Ireland, I’m Irish. When I go to Africa, I’m African. At this point, I’m connected with everybody. My heritage at this point is like Woodstock: everybody’s there.”
“You Are Who You Are Because of God” – When asked about his Mexican heritage, he said, “Mexican people are very noble, they work very hard. That’s in me. But I mainly take my mother and my father’s lessons to me in everything that I do. My mother said, ‘You are who you are because of God, and you have what you have because of people. Never forget that, and be grateful and respectful of both.’ That’s what I take from my past. The lessons from my dad are basically: my dad could play violin, and he could charm anything. Women just adored my father. When I was just a child, I saw how women looked at my dad and said, ‘I want some of that.’ They looked at him like he was a lollipop or something, they just adored him! So, that’s what I take from Mexico.”
“I Haven’t Done Riverdance Yet” – When asked about speaking in Spanish, he said, “The language for me, is a universal language. I honor that I come from Mexico, and we speak Spanish there, as well as in Spain and Puerto Rico. My language now is African rhythms. People call it ‘Latin’ or ‘Spanish’ or this or that. But to me, This is where I can get in trouble: I say that I play 99.9% African music. I haven’t done Riverdance yet. Maybe I will! I want to honor everything. I want to do everything. In fact, now that Merle Haggard changed his zip code, I’d like to do an album with this band that’s a combination of country and western and rap. And have fun with it!”
“Ron Isley Is More Important Than the Statue of Liberty”: On the subject of collaborating with Ronald Isley on Santana IV, he said: “Because I am indebted to this band, I asked for permission from Gregg first, if it was OK to invite Ronnie Isley to sing two songs. To me, Aretha Franklin, when she sung the other day at the Kennedy Center, she without a doubt told everybody that she is the Queen. When she took that coat off… you can have Queen Elizabeth, we have Aretha Franklin. And Ronnie Isley is our king! Marvin Gaye is on ‘the other side,’ Donnie Hathaway [too]. I feel really honored and grateful. For me, Ronnie Isley is more important than the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate [Bridge]. The way he sings, it’s incredible. That he could be seventy-something, it’s like Tony Bennett. He is truly bigger than life.”
“We’re Not the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon or Donald Trump”: “Our intentionality is just like John Lennon and the Beatles, ‘All You Need is Love’ and ‘Imagine,’ we don’t promote fear, we’re not the CIA, the FBI the Pentagon and Donald Trump. We promote unity, harmony and the highest good for all human beings. My heritage, at this point, is to come to this planet… to create a sound that really makes you believe that we can coexist with beauty and grace and respect.”
Santana + Metallica = “The Sound That I Want To Hear” – When asked about modern bands, he said, “A lot of the bands that I hear are into Santana and Metallica. They’re from Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur. A lot of Persian brothers and sisters play a lot of Santana and Metallica, and that’s the sound that I want to hear!”
Getting Fired at Nordstroms = “A Badge of Honor” – When asked for advice for young musicians he said, “Don’t pay attention to the business, pay attention to life. People need water, people need air, people need music. If you play the piano at Nordstroms and they fire you, because nobody buys anything when you’re playing because they’re all looking at you, that’s a badge of honor!”
P.S.: When the band performed at Madison Square Garden on on Wednesday night (April 13), they was augmented by members of the current Santana band: Benny Rietveld on bass, Karl Perazzo on percussion and vocals and David K. Matthews on keyboards. They started with three classics — “Soul Sacrifice,” “Jingo” and “Evil Ways” — before Schon joined them on stage, starting with their fourth song, “No One To Depend On.” For the rest of their set (which included new songs “Shake It,” “Anywhere You Want To Go,” “Fillmore East” and “Caminando”), the band was in a tight groove, with Santana and Schon beaming as they communicated via their shared soloing. (Midway through the set, the “Santana IV” members left and were replaced by the current lineup for more recent songs including “Maria Maria” and “Smooth”). There are just two more concerts planned with the classic lineup, but judging by the faces of the band members and the audience, it seems like there’d be a demand for much more.
The Santana IV band will perform with Journey at the Mohegan Sun on Connecticut on April 15 and at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA on April 16. Santana IV is out tomorrow, April 15.