Santana – Greatest Hits Santana: Live At Montreux 2011

by Janet Goodman

Carlos Santana asks, “Why would it be more difficult today to manifest your dreams? If you work hard, the Universe is going to open the door and give you twice what it gave me.” This optimistic outlook has propelled the one-time Tijuana dishwasher, who had his own dreams of playing on stage with heroes B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, to achieve just that and so much more. His Grammy-winning Latin funk-rock band bearing his last name has had the distinction of producing Top 10 albums in each of the past six decades, introducing Latin jazz into the rock ‘n’ roll mainstream back in the 60s.

Eagle Rock Entertainment has released a concert film about this world-class guitarist – #15 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time – as he appeared at the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in July 2011. “Greatest Hits Santana: Live At Montreux 2011” is a two-disc DVD set that offers nearly three hours of performance footage, plus a half-hour of bonus feature interviews with Santana and his new bride, drummer Cindy Blackman, as well as a brief behind-the-scenes montage.

The band has had numerous configurations over the years, and this particular energized ensemble is made of musicians at the top of their game. An elaborate rhythm section with Dennis Chambers on drums, Raul Rekow on congas and Karl Perazzo on Latin percussions is nothing short of spectacular, and horns, keyboards, bass and rhythm guitar round out the signature Santana sound. It makes for high-octane quality right from the start, and all the big hits are here in their deserved spotlights – “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va,” “Evil Ways,” and “Smooth” – but lesser known pieces are equally thrilling. The vocal one-two punch is given to every song by soulful singer Tony Lindsay and Latin rock singer Andy Vargas, while Carlos’ scorching guitar solos link it all together, making for seamless segues.

Blues artist Susan Tedeschi and her husband Derek Trucks, who is slide guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, are special guests, along with Blackman, who rose to prominence as a drummer for Lenny Kravitz. Carlos has made some of his best music as experimental collaborations with well-known artists, and continues in that tradition. He admits, “The good part about being Santana is that I’m not boxed in. Most people only do one thing…but I’m not afraid…we must retain wonderment.”

The interview clearly captures his self-described hippie, mind-expanding philosophy. “There’s a way to infuse in songs vibrations that are good for humans. We utilize songs as a way to remind people that everyone is significant and everyone is meaningful and everyone has two elements that are very beyond computers and beyond satellites. You can’t quantize it. It’s called light and love. So we utilize music as a combination of rhythms from Africa and romantic melodies to make people come out of their own portfolio of misery.”

Moments later, though, he’s earthbound practical: “Musicians can’t be thinking numbers, as far as how many records you’re going to sell, or how many zeros are to the right of your check. If you start thinking like that, you’re not a musician to begin with – you’re an accountant or a lawyer. [A real musician can only think] how much can I put inside a note? How much can I make your hair stand up?”

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