Emissaries For Peace – The Japan Tour (by Hal Miller)

Move over Carlos Santana career highlights and make room for the Emissaries for Peace Tour, Santana with special guests Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Sponsored by the Buddhist Min-On organization, the tour’s primary goal was to underscore the need for people all over the world to join the cause of world peace in our lifetime. Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter, longtime close friends and musical collaborators, used the best tool available to them – their collective musical magnificence – to make their point that violence, hatred, greed, and arrogance must not be allowed to dominate and consume a world that by now has come to accept war as a daily reality. Through their music, their sheer incomparable artistry, they reminded us that this, too, could be a victim of the next major conflagration.

In ten days in Japan covering five concerts and numerous press conferences, personal appearances, and interviews, Carlos Santana and his esteemed band of musical cohorts alternately stunned and delighted audiences in Yokohama, Nagasaki, Osaka, and Hiroshima with a brand of music for which we have neither name nor any comparison. The Emissaries For Peace concerts started on an impossibly high level in Yokohama and then proceeded to get even better each night.

This was a Santana Band that was clearly inspired by the presence of jazz royalty in the person of pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. How could they not have been given the deserved stature and lifetime achievements of these two musical Mt. Rushmore figures that for all their fame and global adulation continue to shun the tried and true in favor of artistic exploration and daring?While comparisons might be made to last summer’s Montreux Hymns and Songs of Freedom Concert, the fact is that this tour utilized fewer musicians and included five concerts in four different venues [two concerts in Osaka], rather than the one-time experience at Montreux.  In addition, last summer’s outstanding concert provided only glimpses of the guest performers who participated on just one or two numbers. The Japan tour by contrast had guests Hancock and Shorter on stage for each complete concert.

Chester Thompson, Benny Rietveld, Bill Ortiz, Jeff Cressman, Dennis Chambers, Karl Perazzo [on timbales and congas], Andy Vargas, Tommy Anthony, and Carlos joined forces with guitarist-vocalist Lionel Loueke, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter combined to play some of the old, the recent, and the new, and the audiences loved everything. “Jingo”, “Samba Pa Ti” and “Europa” blended with “Foo Foo”, “Day of Celebration”,” Maria, Maria”, and “Smooth” and contrasted so effectively with “Hermes”, I Am Somebody”, and “Yaleo”. It might well have been, however, that “In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time” and “Novus” were the most memorable offerings for many in attendance if only for the lengthy excursions by Carlos, Wayne, and Herbie.

Every concert presented a segment that featured a Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock duet. After everyone else had left the stage, all eyes and ears were trained solely on these two master musicians who operate on a musical plane that defies explanation and yet invites acceptance.  This island of introspective musical rumination also served as a respite for the audience that by that time was fully overwhelmed by the musical mayhem of the earlier numbers.

Bassist Benny Rietveld and drummer Dennis Chambers had solo spots that brought down the house each concert. Consistent with the theme of the tour, Benny fashioned his solo around John Lennon’s “Imagine” to the delight of every audience. Dennis, who is quite well known throughout Japan as a result of his numerous performances there with both American and Japanese bands, played things that were so incredible that even an on-looking Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, broke into applause. Benny and Dennis- what a show!

Perhaps one day a recording will emerge from this tour so that all may hear what those Japanese audiences heard.  Simply put, it was just that kind of experience. There are no words –not even the loftiest and most picturesque of superlatives, just feelings that do justice to the Emissaries For Peace tour.

At every stop and seemingly at every opportunity Carlos recited his mantra,” world peace in our lifetime” and he did so with the conviction and passion that has informed and distinguished his music for the past thirty-five years.

Herbie Hancock told the Tokyo press conference that “in the heart of every parent is the wish to create a world where their children will be safe”.

But perhaps it was Wayne Shorter who put it best when he said that we must strive “to make reality a fantasy, and fantasy our reality”.