“I crave to dive into the unknown and unpredictability.” —Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana is still on fire, figuratively speaking. On a brief stint after the heavier isolation of the previous year, the guitarist is back in New York, reflecting on how he’s found more clarity and new music. “What I was before the pandemic, I am 100 times more,” the guitarist shares, “because I’m more aware, and more present, and more lucid, and more aware than whatever time I’m on this planet. , I will burn, burn, burn.
Holding a press conference around his new single “Move”, Rob Thomas, who wrote and sang the mega-hit “Smooth”, taken from Santana’s album Supernatural, 22 years earlier, is on hand for the “reunion,” albeit virtually, screened remotely. “Move” is a continuation of what the pair started more than two decades earlier. “I’m so grateful that Rob and I can reach every corner of the world again,” says Santana. “At this particular moment the planet has been infected with fear and darkness. People are craving a spiritual jolt, inspiration, validation and celebration of their own spirit, so we are moving molecules, atoms , cells. It’s amazing how one song can create so many vibrations around the world.
Thomas is part of an artist collective and the larger vision around Santana’s latest offering Blessings and Miracles.
“Blessings and Miracles is rooted in the notion that humans are born with an innate power to create both, using light, spirit and soul, which are the three main elements of the album,” explains Santana. “For me, this album invites people to heal this infection of fear and separation. We create music to bring you courage and a deep awareness of your own life.
At a time when Santana says fear invades, Blessings and Miracles is his mystical medicine music. “It’s not show business,” he adds. “It’s not entertainment. It’s mystical medicine music to elevate you to a place where your ego can’t take you to self-deception. The stories I want to share with people are stories of triumph, victory, glory, redemption, forgiveness, compassion, healing, listening, correction and mitigation.
“Move” was the first burst of musical light. “Our brand is love,” says Thomas, who had the opportunity to work with Santana after “Smooth,” but it never felt natural to them. “The idea that 20 years ago I could do something with a legend just because I wanted to meet him, and for him to become what he did and take on his own life and have this change that has been around the world – and then the opportunity to do it again. It just happened naturally and it was good, and that’s what makes it special for me.
When New York rockers American Authors shared the song they were working on, “Move,” Thomas heard the chorus and immediately sent it to Santana. “When people listen to it, there’s nothing artificial about it,” Thomas says. “There’s nothing in there that has an end goal of success or anything that we would want to come back to us, other than the energy that we put into everyone. I think whenever you can to be part of something that isn’t cynical is a good thing.
Listening to the song reminds Santana of her deeper connection to Thomas and something that transcends the music itself. “This song comes in and makes me realize that the energy is very welcomed in our hearts because it makes you feel like you’re 17 with a great thirst for adventure,” Santana says. “When I heard it, I heard Tito Puente and everyone I love. This is Spanish Harlem. It’s so amazing that we play music, and everyone becomes one. C That’s what I’ve loved from the start since Woodstock. I love when everyone becomes one like Bob Marley said “One Love”.
Santana adds, “Once that happens, there is no more conflict. There is no division, separation, and fear and darkness disappear. It’s just joy, and with joy you can create miracles and blessings.
Working mostly remotely with a collection of collaborators, pulling off three tracks – “America for Sale”, featuring Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett and Death Angel vocalist Mark Osegueda, “Peace, Power” featuring Corey Glover and the instrumental “Mother Yes” – from a previous session with producer Rick Rubin, where the two recorded a marathon of 49 songs in 10 days, Blessings and Miracles has been a spiritual experience for Santana, working with more than half of the artists he has never met before. Encourage the words, imagine the feelings and work on his guitar around the stories that are delivered to him.
“The word is trust,” Santana says. “They trust me, and I trust them and together we create. It was orchestrated internally with divine intelligence. I feel like I come in with a guitar and say, ‘Okay, I want to do this’. Thank you for bringing your spirit, your soul, your life and sharing it with us.
Reciting a more biblical verse, He will surely cover me with his feathers under his wings until I rest, flying on the wings of angels, to Chris Stapleton, Santana’s words stayed with the country artist long after their conversation on the single “Joy.” “He took the elements of our conversation and he put in reggae, gospel choir and country, but to me, it’s a party. I want life to be a party. People say, ‘What are you celebrating?’ We need to validate and celebrate the life that keeps molecules together, granting wishes. We created this album to remind people to take the time to validate, celebrate, [and] activate your divine divinity.
Sing the lyrics to “Joy” fly on the wings of angels on the phone in a later interview, Santana adds, “After all the words and all this and that, when I walk away from SupernaturalWhere Blessings and MiraclesI just hear the guitar playing.
Wanting to recruit longtime friend Steve Winwood, Santana caught the singer/songwriter on the side of the stage in London’s Hyde Park, watching Gary Clark Jr., and suggested they cover Procol’s 1967 song. Haram “Whiter Shade of Pale” – but more Spanish Style Harlem. “I wanted to put some real sex in there,” says Santana, who wanted Winwood’s vocals for this track and not another. “He didn’t want to look at me, he just kept looking forward and then he said ‘I hear it’. There are people who, when they sing, you hear everyone we love, you look at Ray Charles. I met Stevie Winwood when he was just a kid, and he sounds the same. He has that voice of eternal presence.
Teaming up with Diane Warren and G-Eazy on “She’s Fire,” Santana kept much of Blessings and Miracles in the family with his touring band – drummer and wife Cindy Blackman Santana, singer Tommy Anthony, bassist Benny Rietveld, percussionist Karl Perazzo and keyboardist David K. Matthews – with his son Salvador on vocals and keyboards on ” Rumbalero” and lead vocals by his daughter Stella, who also shared one of her own songs “Breathing Underwater”.
“They bring their own fingerprints,” says Santana, whose younger daughter Angelica is also working on an album. “They bring their own spirit, their own knowledge,” says Santana. “I was so blown away by the way Stella sings, it’s almost like a butterfly kiss. said, ‘Are you serious?’ It was the same with my son I heard his song ‘Rumbalero’ somewhere in the ether and I said ‘I can’t stop playing your song. guitar on it with the band from my album?’ Then there was a long silence and ‘are you serious?’ »
Bookends Blessings and Miracles are more spectral instrumentals, the intro “Ghost of Future Pull / New Light” and the conclusion “Ghost of Future Pull II”, both inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 release Living in Winterland, and feedback from the guitarist’s purest moments. “It was like the Northern Lights,” Santana says. “There were stars and constellations and the universe and the clouds were singing.”
Reconnecting with a friend and collaborator, the late composer Chick Corea wrote the most choral ‘The Angel Choir’, before passing away in February 2021. “My brother Chick Corea and I have wanted to do an album together for the last century,” says Santana . “We finally decided to stop everything and do this song, and as soon as he sent it to me, he transcended.” The track was later performed by Corea’s wife, Gayle.
“When I hear Gayle sing doo doo dee deeit reminds me of a kingdom that I once knew with Alice Coltrane [Illuminations, 1974]”, says Santana. “There is a certain music that the angels of music and the archangels sing around the throne. I feel so blessed, grateful and overwhelmed with emotion to know that my brother Chick has sent his last song, and we can share it with the world and touch the hearts of many people.
Now over 50 years since his legendary performance at Woodstock and his second album Abraxas, which spawned the more wizarding brew of “Black Magic Woman” and revived one of her hero songs – “Oye Cómo Va” by the late Tito Puente – Santana is always thirsty. At 74, he is still searching, connecting to whatever music there is to find.
“Where I am, at 74, my imagination couldn’t be more intense so I can actually just close my eyes, and I know when to come in, how much passion, emotion and energy to put into a song for the make it real,” Santana says. “I just close my eyes, and it’s all happening in real time anyway.”
He adds: “At that moment, it is a spiritual orgasm. If you don’t get any, then you’re just following the moves. You have to resolve and surrender to that experience because that’s where you get lost and find yourself beyond what you know or have learned. I learned a lot of things being a hippie, hanging out with Jerry Garcia. You cannot find yourself unless you get lost. It’s important to throw away everything you know and just show up with that willingness to allow purity and innocence to enter your fingertips and play those notes.
Good energy. It’s what’s kept Santana’s medicinal musical brew since Santana’s formation in the late ’60s. “It’s always new, fresh with fury and innocence,” he says. “A lot of times people get tired of themselves on the radio, and they’re probably playing the wrong thing, or they’re feeling bad. If you play the right stuff, you can play it 1,000 times in a row and you don’t you won’t tire of it because it’s always welcome. Eternity is always welcome. And eternity is neither predictable nor redundant.
Remembering the days in Vietnam when monks poured gasoline on themselves and lit themselves in spiritual protest is something he recounts metaphorically, to this day.
“That’s what I do,” he says. “I light myself on fire so people can see me from miles away and they can smell it. This fire is called aspiration. I’ve aspired since I remember being more than a guitarist or a person. I aspire to be seen as a sentient being who is making a difference on this planet. I happen to be able to do it with the guitar.
Photo courtesy of Roberto Finizio,