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.”