Original Members of Santana Reunite For One Special Evening and a Benefit For Autism Awareness

Original members of Santana reunite for one special evening and a benefit for autism awareness.

As part of the Voices of Latin Rock yearly benefit show, original members of Santana joined together for a memorable evening of music, rekindled friendships, reminiscing and chemistry. The event took place at Bimbo’s 365 in San Francisco and is a yearly benefit concert with proceeds going to help kids with autism. This year Gregg Rolie & Armando Peraza were honored for their contributions to the San Francisco Latin Rock scene.

The evening began with a great set by a new Bay Area band called La Ventana. After their set, a representative from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office honored Armando Peraza for his contribution to music in the Bay Area. Carlos honored Armando with a speech and award of his own calling him “a supreme musician, master drummer, divine teacher, street-wise healer, radiant spirit and ultimate dimensional warrior“. It was a touching moment for Armando, Carlos & the Bimbo’s crowd. After the ceremony the Vernon Black All-Stars took the stage with Karl Perazzo, Billy Johnson & Bill Ortiz as part of the all-star band (Armando jammed with them on the first few songs). The All-Stars also became the backing band for Jackie Greene, Jorge Santana, Malo, Booker T. Jones and an amazing 2-song Tower of Power mini-set with Lenny Williams. Williams sang his heart out on “Don’t Change Horses” and “What is Hip?” setting the stage for the Gregg Rolie Band.

Gregg took the stage with Michael Carabello, Adrian Areas (Chepito’s son) on timbales, Neil Schon on guitar with members of his touring band filling in the other slots. They launched into “No One To Depend On” with Neil playing his signature harmony lines to the song. Neil left the stage as Gregg played a new song called “Across the Water”. As Carlos was introduced, Michael Shrieve took the helm at the drums and Gregg launched into the opening notes of “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”. Carlos was playing next to Gregg and exchanging smiles as the Bimbo’s crowd felt the chemistry between these amazing players: it was apparent that it never left. In the middle of “Gypsy Queen” there was someone standing on the side of the stage near the timbales trying to get Carlos’ attention. It wasn’t until he took over at the timbales that everyone realized that Chepito Areas was in the house and completed the reunion as the surviving members of the original Santana Band played for the first time in 20 years. As “Oye Como Va’ began, Chepito counted the song off as he has hundreds of times in his life and the band was cooking. Carlos sat next to Gregg at the B3 to share his microphone and sing the opening lines to the Tito Puente classic and the crowd went crazy. Carlos and Gregg traded solos as the song climaxed with the familiar grunt at the end. The crowd was screaming for an encore and the band obliged with a spirited version of “Soul Sacrifice”. Carabello brought the band in and they were soon in high gear. As Adrian Areas, Carabello and Shrieve took their solos, Carlos stood near each of them and cheered them on, waving his hand and playing percussion with a huge smile on his face. When the band came out of the percussion jam it was Gregg’s turn and then Carlos tore it up. The band was on fire!

Backstage everyone exchanged stories, smiles and caught up with one another. There was no doubt that through the years and different roads traveled by the original members of the Santana Band, there is still a magical chemistry and an undeniable feeling when these individuals join together to recreate the music that changed the landscape of world music introducing us to what is now called Latin Rock. The original members of the Santana Band may be a little bit older, but there is no denying the unique sound they created when they first formed and that sound is still alive and kickin’. For anyone who was fortunate enough to be at Bimbo’s on January 11, 2007, they can tell you the spirit of Santana still lives in the Bay Area; Bill Graham would have been proud!