Carlos Santana keeps his music legend persona at bay: ‘I don’t even look at that guy!’ he says

There’s one person Carlos Santana is careful to keep out of his home, and that’s… Carlos Santana. Or, more precisely, it is the famous Carlos Santana, of whom you won’t find a clue in the home he shares with his wife and bandmate, drum dynamo Cindy Blackman Santana.

“I don’t have to be this guy that people call an ‘icon’ or a ‘legend of the guitar,’ or whatever,” the famed Latin rock pioneer said, adding for emphasis: ” I don’t, I don’t even know see to this guy!

The famous guitarist’s Las Vegas home features scrapbooks, photos and memorabilia from some of his musical idols.

But Casa Santana has next to nothing to indicate that its owner is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. Likewise, nothing about him even hints at his 10 Grammy wins, three Latin Grammys, and dozens of platinum albums (the worldwide sales of his 1999 album, “Supernatural,” alone total more than 30 million).

“There’s nothing Santana in the house,” pointed out the veteran musician, who grew up largely in Tijuana before moving to San Francisco in his mid-teens.

“There’s Coltrane, and Miles (Davis) and Jimi Hendrix, but I don’t have anything to do with Santana at home. I have things in the office, because we’re grateful for platinum records, and for this and that. But I keep the two separate, even though they are one.

The reason?

“I did my best and managed not to become the product of anyone, including myself,” Santana replied. “I prefer to be like a constantly changing cloud. A cloud that contains water and is going to rain somewhere later, but is constantly changing shape, you know? »

Guitarist Carlos Santana (right) and bassist David Brown are shown performing in 1969 at the Woodstock Festival in upstate New York. The performance catapulted Santana and the band that bears his name to world stardom.

(Tucker Ranson/Getty Images)

Withdraw? ‘Never!’

Now 74, the man born Carlos Humberto Santana Barragán will open his band’s 2022 summer tour with Earth, Wind & Fire with a sold-out show tonight at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater in Chula Vista. The tour has been pushed back twice, first from 2020 and then from last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Santana and his wife hunkered down at their home in Kauai. There, the couple completed Santana’s latest album, “Blessings and Miracles,” which was released last October.

Inspired, in part, by “Supernatural,” it features a host of guest artists, including Steve Winwood, Chris Stapleton, Dave Matthews, G-Eazy, and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett.

The fact that half of the album was recorded via Zoom – due to the pandemic – doesn’t bother Santana. His tour is not postponed two years in a row either.

“I’m not addicted to being on stage or having people give me a standing ovation,” said the mustachioed guitarist, who shot to worldwide fame after his band’s electrifying performance at the 1969 Woodstock festival.

“If the performance is unavailable, I can always be with Cindy,” he explained. “And we can go for car rides in Hawaii, or here in Las Vegas, and discover new trails, or read new books, or reread passages from old books.”

Yet when asked when he might stop touring and recording, his response is instantaneous: “Never!”

Santana spoke to the Union-Tribune last week. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.

Q: In 2020, I interviewed your wife, Cindy, about her new album, “Give the Drummer Some”. She said you encouraged her to do an album that would feature her singing, and she replied, “I was like, ‘It’s okay, honey, but thank you. Just because I like so much drums, my first thought for making music is to get on drums and create with people. Then she told me that you kept encouraging her, and that she ended up accepting and singing on the album. I wonder, does it work both ways? Is there something she encouraged you to do that took you out of your comfort zone?

A: Yes, she does that every day. But it’s a beautiful way she does it. His favorite band is Lifetime (drummer) Tony Williams with (organist) Larry Young and (guitarist) John McLaughlin. And I think that invites me to put (my favorites) BB King Albert King, Freddie King and T-Bone Walker aside for a minute and just focus on Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and, you know, jazz.

She inspired me to embrace jazz even more… It’s one thing to listen to it and another thing to get into it, and that’s what she helped me do.

Q: In 2007 we talked about your live album with Wayne Shorter and you said to me, “There’s the Pacific Ocean, a lake and a pool, and I know I could never get into the center of ‘How Deep. Is the Ocean’ or ‘How Haut la lune’ Can I assume that now you feel more comfortable to dive deeper as a guitarist?

A: Yeah, it’s a form of improvisation, of articulation. You see, I think jazz musicians play with the unknown and the unpredictable, which is pure improvisation. They always improvise. That’s how they write songs. Their composition is an improvisation. From there, they take on the shape of the melody, and the symmetry of it…

I was more oriented towards learning songs. So I learned a few, like “My favorite things”. And I learned from my father to visit and honor the song, the melody, the theme. But now I’m learning how to do even more and why it’s important to do what Miles (Davis) told his bandmates, “Play like you can’t play.”

It is a matter of purity and innocence; improvise with purity and innocence. And don’t worry, don’t think too much about what you think or what other people think… just do it. Just let it out.

Q: One of my favorite musical memories is memorable even if you didn’t play a note. It was at your 1992 Tijuana comeback concert at the seaside bullring. As I wrote in my review: “The first highlight was the lively afternoon opener by Tequila, with special guest Jose Santana on violin. The eldest Santana was joined on stage by his famous son, who received a standing ovation from fans in the then half-full arena. After a father-son embrace, Carlos briefly played air guitar while the eldest Santana and the other mariachis performed “Por tu Maldito Amor”. What do you remember from this day?

A: I remember it was very deliciously dangerous. Because there are elements there that are like the movie “Sicario” or a bit like being in Ukraine… But at the same time, it was nice to see my father and my son next to me and , and to have Tijuanans be very, very proud of us. Because we brought the music from our hearts to the rest of the world. And everywhere I go, I take Tijuana with me.

Q: Is there any footage from that arena concert that could be used in the next documentary film that Rudy Valdez, Brian Glazer and Ron Howard are making about you?

A: It might be a good idea. Thanks for suggesting it.

Q: Let me take you back. You are 14 years old and you are the bass player of Javier Batiz’s group, Los TJ’s, which plays in Tijuana’s nightclubs on Avenida Revolucion. At that age, did you just have fun playing music? Or did you feel that either you had found your destiny. where did your destiny find you?

A: When I was young, discovering the electric guitar was a bit like seeing a white whale for the first time, or entering a UFO mothership! I learned that I could go anywhere I wanted. Once I discovered that I could get on stage, not only (in Tijuana), but in San Francisco with Michael Bloomfield and Jerry Garcia and Eric Clapton, it gave me something that my father (mariachi violinist) m had instilled since my childhood. .

And that is real tangible trust. Not arrogance, but confidence. The confidence that, with everything in front of you, waiting your turn, and when it’s time for you to do what you have to do, you take it higher, enlarge it, expand it, and complete it.

That’s what my father taught me. Because I could do something with a note (on a guitar) that a lot of people can’t. That is to say, I can ensure that this note reaches the four corners of the world. And as soon as people hear this note, they rejoice, they have fun. …With a note, you can convince people that there’s a place inside them that they need to celebrate

Q: You’re in a rare position where you can get on stage and improvise, while you play songs that people grew up with — and maybe their parents grew up with, too. How do artistic and commercial success combine for you?

A: It’s very easy. There is no conflict for me. Some people have a conflict with, you know, they want to be elite. And they think anything to do with radio and commercial reality is “sold”. But I agree with (the late jazz drumming legend) Tony Williams, who said, “If you sell one record, you’ve already ‘sold’…

But I don’t see it as a negative thing. For example, probably the most commercial song ever played on radio, or in life, is Nat “King” Cole’s “Mona Lisa”, and it’s a great song. Or “Misty” by Johnny Mathis. I don’t think being on the radio creating “commercial music” is a bad thing.

Q: You are married to a great drummer. Have you improved your game, musically, since she became Santana’s drummer?

A: Yeah. With Cindy, I find myself thinking and acting like Miles Davis: “If someone goes up and down, you go left and right.” I learned from my awesome Cindy to bring contrast – someone brings this, you bring that. Being with Cindy is fun more than anything; really, really fun. We’re like kids trying to see who can splash the most water out of the tub!

Santana, with Earth, Wind and Fire

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: North Island Credit Union Amphitheater, 2050 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista

Tickets: Exhausted

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