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Carlos Santana: 1947—: Rock Guitarist - Influenced By Fusion Jazz

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From Caravanserai onward, Santana's music had shown marks of his acquaintance with the "fusion" jazz of trumpeter Miles Davis. Indeed Santana, coming from the rock world, might be regarded as having met Davis, coming from the other direction, in the center of the improvisatory space between jazz and rock. His albums of the 1970s and 1980s landed him less often on the pop charts than did his first releases, but they were no less influential and are still studied avidly by young guitarists. The Swing of Delight (1980) was a double LP featuring progressive jazzmen Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Ron Carter. Sometimes he recorded under the Santana band name (which he owns), and sometimes as Carlos Santana, but the band's membership changed with each new release and the musical distinction between the two designations is slight.


The 1981 album Zebop! put Santana back on the charts with its hit single "Winning," and in 1986 Santana branched out into film music with a score for the film biography of the Mexican-American rock-and-roll vocal star Ritchie Valens. Santana's releases of the late 1980s and early 1990s each contained noteworthy elements, with Blues for Salvador (1987) bringing Santana a Grammy award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Santana was also always a reliable draw in concert. But the new albums were less successful commercially than his previous releases. A move to the Polydor label in 1990 did not improve matters, and after 1994's Santana Brothers (actually featuring Santana's brother Jorge and a nephew), Santana disappeared from the recording scene for five years.


Few could have predicted his spectacular re-emergence in 1999 with the release of the Arista-label CD Supernatural—but some hint of its success might have been garnered by gauging the enthusiastic reactions the 52-year-old Santana's youthful collaborators had to the project when it was hatched."My God, he is one of the great influences of my life," hip-hop chart-topper Lauryn Hill was quoted as saying in People, and the other stars who cowrote songs with Santana and appeared in duets on the album, including Dave Matthews, Rob Thomas, and Wyclef Jean, were equally bowled over. Supernatural sold over ten million copies worldwide and swept up eight Grammy awards in the year 2000.


Some attributed the album's success to a boom in Latin American culture generally, but equally important was the way Santana's multifaceted musical personality had inspired his various collaborators in entirely different ways. Supernatural returned to and extended the kaleidoscopic musical patterns of Santana at his best. At the end of 2001 Santana projected the release of an album mostly in Spanish. But typically he planned to put his own fusion-making twist on it. "I'm looking for Persian melodies combined with Spanish lyrics," he told Billboard.


Selected discography

Santana, Columbia, 1969.

Abraxas, Columbia, 1970.

Santana III, Columbia, 1971.

Caravanserai, Columbia, 1972.

Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles Live, Columbia, 1972.

Welcome, Columbia, 1973.

Love, Devotion, Surrender, (with John McLaughlin), Columbia, 1973.

Borboletta, Columbia, 1974.

Illuminations, Columbia, 1974.

Lotus, Columbia, 1975.

Amigos, Columbia, 1976.

Festival, Columbia, 1976.

Moonflower, Columbia, 1977.

Inner Secrets, Columbia, 1978.

Marathon, Columbia, 1979

Oneness, Silver Dreams—Golden Reality, Columbia, 1979.

The Swing of Delight, Columbia,, 1980.

Zebop, Columbia, 1981.

Shango, Columbia,, 1982.

Havana Moon, Columbia, 1983.

Beyond Appearances, Columbia, 1985.

Freedom, Columbia, 1987.

Blues for Salvador, Columbia, 1987.

Viva Santana!, Columbia, 1988.

The Sound of Carlos Santana, Pair, 1989.

Spirits Dancing in the Flesh, CBS, 1990.

Milagro, Polydor, 1992.

Sacred Fire, Polydor, 1993.

Brothers, Polygram, 1994.

Supernatural, Arista, 1999.


Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, volume 19, Gale, 1997.

Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, St. Martin's, 1989.


Periodicals

Billboard, March 4, 2000, p. 1; February 17, 2001,
p. LM-3.

Entertainment Weekly, December 24, 1999, p. 36.

Guitar Player, January 1993, p. 58; August 1999, p. 74.

Interview, March 2000, p. 62.

Newsweek, February 14, 2000, p. 66.

People, February 28, 2000, p. 97.


—James M. Manheim

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