Santana – USA September Tour

The final 2006 Santana tour that began quite notably in Boston at the Tweeter Center (Mansfield, Ma.) on 9/15 really picked up steam on the 16th at Jones Beach, N.Y. when the Salvador Santana Band and Los Lonely Boys were added to the bill. Ever since, concert attendees have been getting a dynamic triple bill with additional surprises almost nightly.

 Everything was right about that Jones Beach concert. Whether it was simply a case of Mother Nature cooperating so beautifully in marked contrast to the rain that has greeted the band the last few times at this venue; or, whether it was the inspiration derived from a very enjoyable pre-concert meeting between the band and many fan club members; or, whether it was the fact that crowd favorite and special Santana friend Rob Thomas joined the band on-stage for an exciting extended romp through “Smooth”- who can say for sure-, but this was a very special evening.

 One of the band highlights for the annual east coast tour is the extended stay in New York City [shopping, restaurants, plays, the new Apple Store, and friends!] as the band plays in nearby venues. This year was no different as the band played the Holmdel PNC Arts Center in New Jersey, Mohegan Sun Casino, and the Wallingford Chevrolet Theater, both in Connecticut, and a special benefit concert on Wall Street in New York City all while headquartered in NYC.

Opening act, the Salvador Santana Band (SSB) has continued to forge its identity that is clearly rooted in rock, funk, rap, jazz, and Afro-Caribbean music and so well expressed in their original compositions. They have continued to establish their own following, a pattern that started during the spring European tour. As an added bonus, keyboardist Salvador has been joining the Santana Band frequently on “Corazon Espinado”.

Joining forces with the other support group Los Lonely Boys has by now become a tradition for Santana.  These recent Grammy winners are personal favorites of Carlos and the rest of the band-and for good reason. They’re simply outstanding!

Carlos has been inviting Los Lonely Boys guitarist Henry Garza to join him during the Santana set and has featured him liberally on “Black Magic woman/Gypsy Queen” and on “Sacalo”. Last night at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City Henry delighted everyone when he joined in on harmonica for  “ Naboue”, a song recently performed by African singer-guitarist Ishmael Lo with Santana in Montreux, Switzerland in July.

The ever-unpredictable songlist has included music from every era of Santana and to the surprise and delight of the band members has featured almost nightly “Incident at Neshabur” and “Batuka/No One To Depend On”. Recent concerts have opened with the  (literally) stunning “Prayer/SunRa/Day of Celebration” medley that dramatically services notice to all in attendance that this will be no ordinary night. The lively and energetic “Historia” seems to be gaining a firm foothold with both the band and the audiences as Andy Vargas really works out on this song from African vocalist-composer Idrissa Diop, while “Africa Bamba” with its delicately insinuating rhythms continues to be an excellent showcase for the talents of trombonist Jeff Cressman [whom Carlos introduces nightly as “Gentleman Jeff Cressman”].

Each night echoes of Miles Davis can be heard in the beautifully crafted solos of trumpeter Bill Ortiz on “Concierto de Aranjuez” [intro for “Maria Maria] as well as on the alternate intro song“Generique”, both of which treat the audience to somelovely arco [bowed] bass passages from Benny Rietveld.

And while it may be the height of redundancy to state this, the fact is that Carlos Santana has never sounded better. For those of you intending to take in a show, come prepared to be astonished-the band is that good. And for those who can’t be there in person, trust me, please, when I tell you that you’ve missed an absolute event and an unforgettable evening of music.

Hal Miller
Atlantic City