Santana: Ripening with Age, Richer in Texture, Passing on the Torch

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, National Music, Concert Reviews,   From Issue 660   By: Scott Baker

08th May, 2008     0

A Santana concert is a musical celebration of all things past, present, and future. Uniquely playing to a three-quarters version of the Palace of Auburn Hills (upper balcony closed all around), Carlos and company traveled far and wide Friday, April 18, once again to spread the positive world-music love that only he can dish out four decades onward.

Bringing the Derek Trucks Band as an opening act made for a world-class evening, investing a new guitar hero into the realm of folks of all ages.

Giving the opening act an hour and fifteen minutes to do their thing is not standard in the music business (45 minutes is typical). People in ticket lines were overheard asking whom Trucks was, where and why did he come, and what is he going to do? This reviewer found himself in the drivers seat to spread the word that the young Trucks, not only is a member of the Allman Brothers for almost ten years, but also recently toured along side of Eric Clapton in 2006-2007. Eyebrows were raised and those who worship at the Santana guitar mantle had a new focus for the evening.

Kicking off a stellar showcase of world music, which for Trucks runs through a jazzy/blues tonality, his group was made up of long-time band mates, which are world-class musicians. Drummer Yonrico Scott and percussionist Count M'Butu combined for a rollicking progression, often liquefying the sound as bassist Todd Smallie and keyboardist/flautist Kofi Burbridge locked down grooves, which guided Trucks inspirations.

Performing tracks off of his most recent release, Songlines, vocalist Mike Mattison sang with a soul that could only be matched by Trucks truly unique slide guitar. Utilizing his fingers with the slide off, Trucks came across fluid and seamless as any jazz master of the instrument ever has, be it saxophone, trumpet, or sitar.

Gaining the appreciation of the audience with each tune, Trucks always allowed room for his band to shine. Burbridge pulled out the flute twice and added an almost forgotten element to the music, which can at times touch upon eras of instrumental and soulful harmony.  Mattison often helped patch together long improvisations and hair-raising stanzas. Trucks near-vocal slide playing brings a unique style that only the greats have had with their respective instruments, be it Miles Davis, John Coltrane, or Duane Allman.

By the end of the set, the entire audience gave Trucks and his band a standing ovation, and well deserved. The audience themselves also deserve an ovation for remaining open, honest, and accepting of something so new and musically provoking in this day and age of low tolerance and patience when it comes to something new.     

Indeed, the bar was raised for Santana to drape his musical scope soon after.  

Firing up one of the finest groups on tour right now, the Santana Band came out riffing off the stellar propelling drums of the legendary Dennis Chambers. Along with two percussionists, Karl Perazzo and Paul Rekow as well as vocalists Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay with their shakers and sprinting stage vibe, the momentum was kicked up a notch.

Long time Santana keyboardist Chester Thompson and bassist Benny Reitveld launched into the classic Santana tune Jingo, a rousing intro for sure. Moments later Carlos ran to center stage firing off staccato notes with the tone that can only be possessed by him. Lights, colors, and dancing filled the entire Palace. Moving from one classic to another without letting up, Santana paired up some legendary material including Incident At Neshabur with Batuka and later the obligatory standout Black Magic Woman with Oye Como Va. Vocal tracks split the extended classics.        

The Santana horn section added punch and cheer to the already epic tunes. Trumpet player Bill Ortiz shared the spotlight with Santana for an endearing Concerto, done with a nod to Miles Davis. Santana strummed on a standing classical guitar, mixing his electric with the song back and forth. The quiet escapade led to Maria Maria, a recent single for the guitarist.       

After Oye Como Va, Santana invited Trucks back out for some jamming, much to the venue's approval. The crowd burst when they launched into lapping grooves, spinning back and forth between the two guitarists. M'Butu came back out to sit in on percussion and eventually Burbridge was pulled back out as well for some flute duties. The jams lasted around 20 minutes or longer, giving everyone a chance to stretch out and showcase a master-musician showcase.         

At many times the younger Trucks would weave perplexing lines only to leave Santana grooving with the band. The crowd was voicing their thrill and disbelief at the youngster's cred. The musical tension was put at ease after another standing ovation giving way to Santana and his band to lock into Smooth, another golden current Santana favorite.      

With the pair of both Trucks and Santana offering so much of themselves for entertainment, with a nod to world music and brilliant guitar playing, a great concert doesn't get much better than this; A history lesson, a current objective, and the passing of the torch.


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