Carlos Santana is most notably the most recognized name in rock history. His contributions to the genres of rock, R&B, pop, fusion jazz and Latin music are phenomenal. In addition, he is the founding pioneer of Latin-influenced rock music. With over 38 albums to his credit, collaborations that reads like a Who’s Who of Music, numerous Grammy Awards in both Latin and American categories, Carlos Santana’s influence provides a retrospective perspective through 40 years of ground-breaking accomplishments.
The fact that Santana has impacted the music scene in a very big way has been duly documented and goes without saying. However, to speak about him with mere words may never magnify his contributions. But it is in his music that tells the story of his indelible spirit and his drive to push the envelope of artistic impression. Although numerous artists have attempted to emulate Santana’s impact on music, The Band has now seen fit to record a tribute to Carlos Santana entitled Viva Carlos on the Tone Center record label.
Guitarist Jeff Richman is the driving force behind this 10-track retrospective on Carlos Santana’s music. To make this album happen, Jeff’s Band laid claim to drummer Dave Weckl, bassist Abe Laboriel, keyboardist Peter Wolf and percussionist Luis Conte. In addition, some of the finest guitarists in progressive jazz/fusion, blues and rock served as guest musicians on the project. They include Vinnie Moore, Mike Stern, Eric Gales, Pat Martino, Eric Johnson, Frank Gambale, Robben Ford, Albert Lee and Coco Montoya, who in their own right have made an impact on music.
It is a well-known fact that Carlos Santana has impacted jazz with his Latin-influenced path across the musical landscape through his associations with John McLaughlin and Wayne Shorter. Therefore, it is a fitting tribute to Carlos’ influence for Jeff to push this project forward. It may be difficult to fully appreciate the distinctiveness of Santana’s sound on any recording other than his own, but Jeff Richman and his band of merry men have created a picturesque expansion that invariably runs the gamut of everything Carlos has recorded. The gist of Viva Carlos stands as a microscopic overview that in some ways opens the door to an entirely new generation of fans, many of whom were not around at the onset of Santana’s career.
Viva Carlos is not a catch all phrase for everything Santana has accomplished through 40 years of music.However, the album does depict some of his most recognized tunes. Just listen to Eric Gales on "Jingo," Albert Lee’s influence on "Samba Pa Ti" as well as Mike Stern on the Tito Puente classic "Oye Como Va." These three tracks alone provide a strong indication of what ‘Viva Carlos’ is all about.
The unique thing about The Band’s tribute to Santana is that they have left his music open to interpretation. In retrospect, one can imagine the challenge Jeff Richman faced when he set about the business of recording Viva Carlos. He did not want a poor imitation nor an emulation. However, he did want to create an environment where everyone involved in the session could allow their own creative flow to occur. But most importantly, the spirit of Carlos Santana’s music had to be in keeping with what was presented. In other words, the scope and sensitivity of one of the world’s most prolific guitarists could not be compromised. For the most part, Viva Carlos is everything a tribute is meant to be.
As one examines the impact of Viva Carlos on fusion jazz, the CD is in keeping with Carlos Santana’s Latin-influenced style of play. However, there is an exception that drives the point of a tribute home. Although this album contains ten attractive cover songs, the personality of each individual guest musician has been allowed to manifest itself throughout. In addition, Jeff Richman has undeniably done a fantastic job of recreating the dynamics that has made Carlos Santana one of the most recognized names in music.
To say that a musician has managed to continue along a path that responds to the ever-changing musical trends that have been seen over the last 40 years is monumental. With the release of Viva Carlos, Jeff Richman has edified the accomplishments of Carlos to jazz, which also contains the Latin-influenced dynamics of America’s most original art form.