Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Santana’s legacy: More than 40 years of great music

Guest post: Christine Fasick

The name Carlos Santana is synonymous with a unique genre of music that features Latin and African percussion instruments married with the smooth and melodic tone of the blues guitar. Although Santana’s sound has evolved over the past four decades, his style remains a constant, his passion for the music apparent in every note he hits and sustains. From the raw, improvised riffs of the band’s first album, featuring songs such as Evil Ways and Soul Sacrifice, to the more polished sound of their later works, the guitar legend’s keen sense of timing and classic Latin twist are ever present.

Santana Tribute guitarist and keyboardist

The son of a mariachi musician, Carlos Santana was born in Jalisco, Mexico in 1947. He first learned to play the guitar at the age of 8. Although he retained a feel for and love of the Latin music with which he was raised, Santana was heavily influenced by Latin pop star Ritchie Valens and blues greats B.B. King and Muddy Waters. But his musical style truly began to take shape when his family moved to San Francisco at the height of the hippie movement, and a young Carlos was exposed to a number of new musical influences, including those of jazz and folk. The resulting syncretic sound made the band widely popular on the San Francisco club circuit, and earned them an eventual spot at Woodstock.

The guitar heard round the world

Named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the twenty best guitarists in the world, Santana continues to evolve and explore new avenues in music. In the late 1990’s, at the age of 52, he collaborated with a host of popular artists, including Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, Wyclef Jean, and Dave Matthews, to write and record Supernatural. The album, which was produced by the legendary Clive Davis, won an unprecedented 8 Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year (Smooth), and sold 30 million copies worldwide. More importantly, it introduced Santana’s trademark guitar sound to a whole new generation.

Carlos in the new millennium

Having gained musical immortality with classic Santana songs, such as the energetic Black Magic Woman and Oye Como Va, and haunting ballads like Europa and Samba Pa Ti, Carlos Santana has turned his creative attentions toward other pursuits. He has lent his name and signature style to a number of products, including an exclusive line of women’s shoes, several specially designed Paul Reed Smith guitar models, headwear, sparkling wines, and colognes, among others. Perhaps closest to his heart are his humanitarian pursuits. The Milagro Foundation, which he founded along with former wife Deborah, works to improve the lives and opportunities of young people all over the world.

Santana’s storied career and contribution to the arts led to his selection as a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2013. But it is doubtful that the iconic guitarist will sit back and rest on his laurels. With an unparalleled musical ability and the eye of a true artist, there is very little that Carlos Santana cannot accomplish. The world looks forward to seeing what he will do next.

The rise of Latino music in the U.S.

During and right after the end of World War II, the U.S. experienced a historic wave of immigration from Latin America.  This included a record number of immigrants from Puerto Rico, with about 80% of the Puerto Rican population residing in New York City in large Spanish-speaking communities, the biggest being Spanish Harlem or “El Barrio”. If you lived in Harlem, you couldn’t help but become familiar with the sounds of the Latino beat and the dance rhythms that were a constant of El Barrio.

As the Latino population grew in New York City, so did its influence on the arts, especially the music of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Local clubs and ballrooms started hosting evenings that were specifically devoted to Latino bands and dance contests. And, in the early fifties, the Palladium Ballroom in Manhattan was the place to see some of the famous Latino bands of the day led by Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Frank “Machito” Gringo. 

The Latin influence began to find its way into rhythm and blues as well as the pop music of the day. Songwriters working in Manhattan became enthralled by the Latin beat and started to incorporate Latino-flavored rhythms into songs such as the Drifters, “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “This Magic Moment” and Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem”. 

Latin music continued to find its way into R & B, and it had a powerful influence on rock and roll in the 60’s.

Enter Carlos Santana

In the late ’60s in San Francisco, Bill Graham, owner of the famous Fillmore West, became acquainted with a young guitarist by the name of Carlos Santana. Carlos was already playing in some local bands, and had developed a love affair with the blues.

The band, Santana, first started out as a blues-rock band, but, over time, it changed as members came and went and different influences led the band in different musical directions. By 1969, the band was a cohesive unit with each member bringing something all their own to the band’s sound — Carlos on guitar, Michael Carabello on congas, Chapito Arias on timbales, Greg Rolle on the organ,  Michael Shreve on drums, and David Brown on bass. 

Over time, the band moved toward more of a Latin sound.  Bill Graham was very supportive of Santana, even suggesting that the band cover some Latin songs like “Evil Ways”. In August of 1969, Graham arranged for Santana to perform at Woodstock, and the rest, as they say, is rock and roll history.

After the movie “Woodstock” was released, Santana became an international success overnight. Their music, an Afro-Cuban blend, became an essential part of the American music scene, and for Latinos in the U.S., Carlos Santana was their first superstar.

Paying tribute to Santana

Carlos Santana would go on to shape the idea of “world music” through his experimental blending of styles as well as genres of music from a wide variety of ethnic sources — Latin, salsa, blues, rock, and Afro-Cuban along with elements of jazz, fusion, and world beat.

The great Santana tribute band, Savor, captures the Afro-Cuban sounds of Santana’s earlier music as well as the diverse sounds that found their way into later albums. Check out Savor and rock to the music that still excites today like it did 50 years ago.