Carlos Santana Brings Blessings

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“Santana's always been about

— since the first time we played

Woodstock and before —

it's about three things:

unity, harmony and totality.”

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“Grace is my GPS and everything

happens by grace all the time.”

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“The only thing that's in front

of me, like Chris Stapleton

said, is joy.”

by Jason MacNeil

 

     ON FEBRUARY 7, 2020 legendary guitarist Carlos Santana wrapped up a brief Las Vegas residency at the House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay. According to a set list from his official website, the show concluded with ‘Get Together,’ a cover of a hit song the New York City band, The Youngbloods recorded in 1967.

     Now, over 16 months later and with most of North America slowly recuperating from the global pandemic, Santana is eager to get together with fans, giving both himself and the audience a sense of normalcy.

     “More happier,” the guitarist says down the line from his abode on Kauai, Hawaii. “I think Dizzy Gillespie said, ‘Happier than a two-headed cat at a fish market.’”

     Santana, performing at Estero’s Hertz Arena on September 19 as part of Santana: The Blessings and Miracles Tour, says he used the downtime to stay creative while being off the road. It’s a far cry from averaging roughly 70 concerts a year since starting his illustrious career in 1969.

     “For me it was a blessing in disguise to enjoy something that I just learned from my son last week,” Santana says. “He said, ‘Believe. Relax. Enjoy.’ Since I can remember, I’m into crystallizing my existence and making more melodies that elevate people into a place where they can celebrate and validate their own light.

     “We play music to bring hope and courage to people. Especially in a world so fragmented with fear. Santana’s always been about — since the first time we played Woodstock and before — it’s about the three things: unity, harmony and totality. We’re beyond patriotism or flags or countries. We’re beyond any of that.”

     Santana launches the tour on September 11 in Atlantic City after another brief Vegas residency in late August. But the musician got to perform “not too long ago” in Kauai jamming with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann.

     “He invited me to sit in with one of his bands, Billy & The Kids. So, it felt really good to dive into the Grateful Dead material with him. I just close my eyes and imagine Jerry Garcia next to me and hit it and have fun.”

     Part of the fun Santana had during the pandemic was creating his forthcoming studio album called Blessings and Miracles. The record features a bevy of collaborations ranging from Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett to pop singer Ally Brooke to country star Chris Stapleton. 

The musician says the album cover’s imagery came to him first, then the music.

     “The cover is the Aztec god of rain, Tlaloc,” he says. “And he’s got two hands showing you so it says ‘Blessings and Miracles.’ The music was hovering, being orchestrated behind the scenes. The album just becomes like a bowl. Everything else is just taken from the garden and you put it in the bowl.”

     Perhaps the most anticipated song on the album is a reunion with Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas on ‘Move.’ Thomas and Santana struck gold with the hit ‘Smooth’ from Santana’s mammoth 1999 smash-selling album Supernatural.

     “It was really great,” Santana says of the reunion. “Grace is my GPS and everything happens by grace all the time. Orchestrating Rob Thomas again or in the past with (the late concert promoter) Bill Graham and (record executive) Clive Davis. But with Rob Thomas, Steve Winwood, Kirk Hammett, Ally Brooke and everyone else on this new album I just show up because it’s being orchestrated. I just show up with an open mind and a grateful heart. I’m able to be 74 years young and be relevant.”

     Lining up the collaborators was also a tad easier logistically as everybody was off the road. Santana says a chat with Chris Stapleton resulted in the “magnanimous” track ‘Joy.’”

     “We invited him to see if he would have eyes to write a song for us and he said he did,” he says. “So then he called me and then we talked about the times in which we were living: fragmented, fear everywhere around the world, too many people infected with fear. So we needed to heal fear and darkness and bring people hope and courage. So he just took the lyrics from what I was saying when we were on the phone and created this incredible song.” 

     Blessings and Miracles will be released October 15, but it’s unclear how much of the new material will be performed on the tour. Santana says fans attending this upcoming trek should expect “really juicy notes and a lot of spiritual energy.” Meanwhile he’s has already confirmed shows for 2022 that were delayed in 2020 with Earth, Wind & Fire due to the pandemic.

     Like almost every other artist, Santana will have to see how international touring pans out with various countries having restrictions and public health protocols. But much like artists such as Celine Dion, Elton John, Rod Stewart and others, Santana has found a second home of sorts courtesy of Las Vegas residencies. He sees it as a perfect balance where instead of traveling the world to see fans they come from around the world to see him.

     “Sometimes people will come and say, ‘Excuse me,’” Santana says. “It might be nine to 12 people and I turn around. They’ll say, ‘Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture with us? We just flew in from Sydney, Australia and we just came to see you.’ I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. They came in from Sydney, Australia? Nine to 12 of them came here, they took a plane, they are staying at a hotel and they bought the tickets? Oh, heck yeah, I’ll take a picture with you!’’ That’s a lot of money to spend on seeing someone. So, I’m very grateful and honored it’s like that. People from Paris, from New Zealand, from Australia, people come from all over the world. But now, hopefully, around the corner pretty soon we will be able to come and visit them as well.”

     With his 26th studio album on the horizon and an estimated 100 million albums sold worldwide since his 1969 self-titled debut, Santana says he’s been able to persevere through the highs and lows. He attributes it to being a multi-faceted artist.

     “Grace first,” he says. “And second I have a heart growing up around Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. I became multi-dimensional. Being around The Grateful Dead, The Doors, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar, I learned. I’m not a one-trick pony, it’s true. I know the tricks. It’s more that I identify with three things: unity, harmony and totality.”

    And in addition to all the awards and accolades he amassed over the years Santana hit another milestone in July by turning 74 years young.

     “Oh, it was great,” he says of his birthday. “Being here in Kauai with my wife, my sister and the people that I love. I just close my eyes and try and disappear. Gravity disappears and the years disappear. The only thing that’s in front of me, like Chris Stapleton said, is joy.”   • 

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September/October 2021