Author Archives: Michael Caroff

The healing benefits of music

We are living in a very stressful time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re bombarded from every direction with instructions on how to take care of our physical health so that we can avoid contracting the virus. But during this most challenging of times we must take care of our mental health, too.

As a result of all the recommendations for social distancing and, as more and more states issue shelter-in-place orders to residents, people are becoming physically isolated and dwelling on the uncertainties of the future: Will I contract the virus? Are my loved ones safe? What about my job; can I pay my bills? When will the pandemic end?

There is a heightened level of anxiety among the general population, but even more so for people who already suffer from anxiety, OCD, and other mental health issues.  

Many people feel a real sense of helplessness and even hopelessness as they sit at home, day after day, watching the news and thinking about the impacts that the virus has had and will have on themselves and their loved ones.

But there are things that you can do to help deal with your anxiety and fears, and listening to and/or making music is one of them. Music can help to reduce your stress and anxiety, can help to distract you from negative thoughts and feelings and can even help to relieve symptoms of physical and mental health conditions.

Music has been used to decrease physical as well as emotional pain while increasing the quality of life in both medical and psychiatric hospitals, drug and alcohol rehab programs, cancer centers, and nursing care facilities as well as assisted living facilities.  

Music can help to calm your fears and decrease your level of stress and anxiety. Choose music that is calming or distracting for you, and, if and when you feel yourself becoming depressed, anxious, or fearful, simply put on your headphones, turn on the music, close your eyes, and breathe to the music. 

Put together a playlist of songs with positive associations that you can listen to when you need a quick boost. Songs are often associated with good memories from your past, and can transport you back to a happier time.

Music can lift your mood, something that is so needed in this time of crisis. Whether it’s turning the volume up to 10 on your favorite song, singing or playing along to it, or even getting up and dancing around your living room, music can help clear your head of negative thoughts and provide a fun distraction from the depressing or worrisome news of the day.

People across the globe have been creative in using music to battle their social isolation and to boost morale. Videos of Italians singing and playing music from their balconies have gone viral. Musicians are streaming live music via social media. Sharing music has become a way of connecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic in a responsible way. 

So get busy and enjoy your favorite tunes. Or, compose your own music, dance to your favorite ballet, put on a musical with your kids, or lose yourself in your favorite piece of classical music as it’s being streamed online by some of the world’s greatest orchestras. 

Santana at Woodstock

Before Woodstock, Santana was a relatively unknown band that hailed from San Francisco’s Mission District. Carlos Santana put together the band with keyboardist and singer, Gregg Rolie, in 1966. Playing mostly local gigs, the band was discovered by legendary promotor, Bill Graham, who booked Santana into the Fillmore West on June 16 1968.

By 1969, the band consisted of Carlos Santana on lead guitar, Gregg Rolie on organ and keyboards, David Brown on bass, Michael Shrieve on drums, and Michael Carabello and Jose Arias, both playing congas and percussion.

Graham recognized that Santana had a sound that was unique — a mixture of blues guitar set against a backdrop of Latin and African rhythms which featured percussion instruments like the timbales and congas, sounds not heard in rock music at the time.

It was this unique sound that attracted Bill Graham to the band, and he soon became their manager. At the time, Graham was also managing some big name groups such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. So, when the Woodstock promoters came to him for help putting together the event, he agreed….with one stipulation. They had to agree to Santana performing at the festival, which they did, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

With no track record of performing at big venues and having just finished up recording music earlier in May of ‘69 for a possible album to be released at a later date, the group was skeptical about performing. Carlos Santana remembers his reaction to the news that they’d be on the bill at Woodstock with some of the biggest names in rock, “Bill, we’re from the Mission. We don’t buy into that rock star thing.” But, Graham predicted that performing at Woodstock would be a game changer for the band, putting them on a par with the likes of Hendrix and the Doors.

Santana was scheduled to play around midnight on the second day of Woodstock, August 16th, 1969. It had started to rain the night before, and by the afternoon of the 16th, the venue had turned into a sea of mud, creating all sorts of technical problems and wreaking havoc on the schedule of performers for that day. Arriving at around 11 that morning, the group was told they weren’t going to take the stage until well after midnight.

Carlos Santana decided to take some mescaline that he got from Jerry Garcia, figuring that he’d be okay to perform after midnight. At two in the afternoon, he was told that it was time for the band to perform — a now or never situation. When the band took the stage that afternoon, Santana was really hallucinating and, as he tells it, was wrestling with his guitar which had “transformed” into a slithering snake he was trying to hold onto while playing.

And play he did. Performing a 45-minute set of eight songs culminating with “Soul Sacrifice” and Michael Shrieve’s famous drum solo, the group was the big hit of Woodstock, raising the consciousness level as well as the energy level of the crowd who were dancing and moving to something that wasn’t really rock and roll, but a sound that was powerful, rhythmic, and simply magical.

Just as Bill Graham had predicted, Santana’s performance at Woodstock propelled them to the top of popular music charts. Within a few weeks of Woodstock, the group released their debut album, Santana, on August 30th. It quickly rose to No. 4 on Billboards’s 200 albums chart and stayed there for two years, with “Evil Ways” rising to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Santana Tribute band: What does it take?

Guest post from Lisa Hartman

The primal beat of African drums, the sensuality and passion of the Latin sound, the coolness of the blues combined with the intensity of rock. Fuse them together and what to do you get? The music of Santana. For more than 40 years, Santana’s music has captured the world stage, transcending musical genres with its constantly evolving sound which appeals to music lovers from all walks of life. Santana burst onto the music scene in the late 60’s in an era that has defined music for several generations of rock and rollers, and is still as relevant today as it was then.

Savor: Tribute to Santana in concert in Buena Park

What does it take to put together a great Santana tribute band? Start with a fiery percussion section — congas, bongos, timbales. Add the energized beat of the drummer, a rhythm and blues keyboardist who can easily shift from playing blues riffs to jazz and funk, and the pounding of the bassist in the groove. Top this off with a guitarist who can not only recreate the raw, unpolished sounds of the earlier Santana albums, but also the smoother, more sophisticated sounds that dominated later recordings. Put all of this together and you have the makings of a great Santana tribute band, and that band’s name is Savor!

If you close your eyes, you think it’s Santana

Savor recreates all the hits spanning rock legend Carlos Santana’s 40 year long career. Their set list is a veritable trip “down memory lane” with the raw and passionate sounds of Soul Sacrifice, Jingo, and Evil Ways — part of Santana’s legendary set at Woodstock — to the more mystical sounds of Incident at Neshabur and Black Magic Woman to the electrifying, Latin sounds of Maria, Maria, Smooth, and Oye Como Va. When you close your eyes and listen to Savor, you’ll swear you’re listening to your favorite Santana album! With decades of musical experience between them, the musicians of Savor put on an exhilarating, crowd-pleasing performance every time complete with 60’s and Afro-Cuban clothing to round out your “Santana” experience.

Watch the video

Check out the band’s video to get a sample of their dynamite show. While you’re there, take a look at the set list for Savor’s shows and read about the musicians that make up this awesome Santana tribute band. Pay tribute to rock legend Carlos Santana and come rock with Savor!

Santana — Live!

The crowd was so pumped. You couldn’t stay in your seat because Santana’s beat made you want to get up and dance. When Black Magic Woman transitioned into Oye Como Va, I was hooked on the live concert experience, and the louder the better!

Santana introduced us rock and roll fans to Latin and African rhythms fused with blues, jazz, Latin, and good old rock and roll. We heard a rock band playing timbales and congas for the first time. And, for many people, Santana introduced us to Latino music.   

After that concert, my cousins and I played our Abraxas eight-track (remember eight-tracks?) to death . . . literally! Every album released after Abraxas was a must-buy, and when I listen to that great music of the ‘70s, it takes me back to that very special night in Philly when I had my first introduction to the rock concert experience thanks to Santana.

Still going strong

Fast forward to 2016 and The Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. It’s 45 years later, and I’m taking my 21 year old son to hear Santana. The crowd is decidedly much older with gray hair or little hair, for that matter.  But, everyone is eagerly anticipating of one the greatest guitarists of all time — Carlos Santana.

And, he doesn’t disappoint.  The night’s music is a blending of old favorites — Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Evil Ways — with some new favorites like Smooth, Maria, Maria, and Corazon Espinado.  With incredible solos by Santana and drummer and wife, Cindy Blackman, 45 years slipped away and lots of great memories of dancing and rocking out to Santana came rushing back.

And, just like 45 years ago, the crowd was on its feet for the entire evening dancing to the music, reminiscing, singing along to all of their favorites songs, and playing air guitar along with Carlos!

Close your eyes

I still love to hear live music. And, I still love to go and hear my favorite artists and bands play in concert.  But, with sky high ticket prices, a good tribute band gives me the experience of seeing up close and personal performance at a fraction of what concert tickets are going for today.

When you close your eyes and listen to Savor, you feel like you’re up close and personal at a live Santana concert. This group of dedicated musicians have been delighting audiences for 15 years with their amazing reproductions of the original versions of Santana favorites such as Soul Sacrifice, Jingo, Evil Ways, and Smooth.  It’s the ultimate tribute to one of the greatest groups to come out of the 70’s — Santana.

How to play Santana music properly

In the last 30 years there’s been a virtual explosion in the amount of tribute bands in the marketplace. Every well-known band (and even some pretty obscure ones!) have at least one, and often many bands that offer a tribute to their music.

Like most other music fans, I have seen and heard a number of these bands. And although there is infinite variation on a theme, the one common factor seems to be that a tribute band makes it its mission to cover the original music as closely as possible.

Except Santana tribute bands.

What makes Santana Tribute Bands the exception?

That’s a good question, and one for which I can only guess at the answer. My instinct is that guitar players playing in other Santana Tribute Bands feel that because Carlos is essentially an improvisational player who never repeats the same phrase twice, they (the ones offering a tribute to Santana) should do the same thing.

I don’t agree. In fact I feel very strongly about it.

What happens when a tribute guitar player doesn’t “get it right”?

In my opinion, when a guitar player takes this approach within a Santana tribute band, it doesn’t capture the freewheeling, melodic improvisation body by Carlos; it just sounds sloppy.

It is my contention that as a player in a tribute band, you are not there to “be” the artist, you are there to produce the music from that artist exactly the way that the audience is used to hearing it. So while it is okay for Carlos to change up his arrangements, solos, etc. during his own show, I do not believe that is what audiences come to hear when they attend the performance of a Santana tribute band.

From what I have been told, the fans that go to see a tribute band expect to hear the songs exactly as they always have, either via LP or CD, or on the radio. If that recorded version has a certain solo, they want to hear the same solo. Exact. Note-for-note.

Is it hard to cover Santana’s solos?

Yes and no. Re-creating the notes of his melodies is fairly straightforward. He is not a “technical” player, and they are not at all complicated. In that sense, it is not difficult at all. The challenge comes in duplicating his phrasing: the way he times his melodies.

Latin jazz rock phenom Al DiMeola  once stated in an interview that any guitar player should be able to write his solos out in musical notation. This is true. However, some solos would be more difficult to transcribe than others. In the case of Santana, what sounds “natural” when he plays it would not be simple whatsoever on the page.

Carlos has a complex way of organizing his phrasing — sort of the guitar version of what Frank Sinatra was famous for — that works, and is deceptively complex.

So the first thing in the guitar player must do when learning Santana’s solos is to get that phrasing (timing) and his (or her) head. After all, you have to understand the melody before you can play it. Once you have that, it is a matter of practicing it until it becomes innate. What Carlos does naturally, you must reproduce intentionally.

Finally, you must pay attention to the small details

There are any number of seemingly trivial techniques that when added together, gives any guitar player — and Carlos Santana is no exception — their trademark style. Where on the neck they play the notes; whether they pick, hammer on or pull off, if they slide into or out of notes, and how far.

While you would be hard-pressed to find an audience member that would understand all these things, what they can hear, is when it sounds authentic. And that is what they come for.

Authentic. That’s what we aim to deliver.