Live At Montreux 2011
The famed Montreux Jazz Festival apparently can't get enough of Carlos Santana. He's been making appearances in the Swiss town for the annual fest since 1970. Consequently, many of those shows have come out on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. For the guitarist's third or fourth release (there are some dodgy sources on some of these), Live At Montreux 2011 is full of Santana's 'Greatest Hits" and special guests like the husband and wife guitar team of Susan Tedeschi and Allman Brother Derek Trucks, as well as Santana's wife, drummer Cindy Blackman.
An explosion of percussion and drums ala "Spark Of The Devine" opens the show as Santana waits in the wings. He seamlessly joins the building cacophony of drums, timbales, congas, horns, guitars and keys in a wild exhibition called "SOCC" and it seems like we could be in for a night of free-form jazz, a zany cross between Miles and Zappa caught up in a cataclysmic rage of sonic bombast. But for Santana and his able-bodied band, it's a matter of refining the set as they go along.
Indeed, a cover of AC/DC's "Back In Black" (from the all-covers Guitar Heaven: Santana Performs The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time CD) with Andy Vargas, a capable singer, rapping through the verses and Tony Lindsay's soulful delivery on the chorus may not sit well with traditionalists. They'll have to wait for the band leader to fall into "Black Magic Woman" where Lindsay and Vargas serve the song more faithfully. A sizzling jam later, we're equally entranced by the samba swing of "Oyo Como Va."
No one is likely to turn away from "Maria Maria," as Santana plucks his acoustic to a Latin beat set in motion by super drummer Dennis Chambers. At one point, the guitarist even invites a young spectator up on stage to have a few sweeps across his strings. Cindy Blackman gets up behind the drums for "Corazon Espinado" and "Guajira," then cranks out a rapturous exchange with bassist Benny Reitveld, before taking off on her own.
"Jingo" keeps the spirit going before Santana falls into an ethereal political rant, which somehow becomes the intro to "Europa." And then a masterful swing through "Batuka" and "No One To Depend On" gets the flow back in sync. Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks come on for "Make Somebody Happy" and "Right On Be Free." Trucks slides off a sweet solo and Tedeschi sings a verse or two of the former; both seem a little less involved in the latter song until Santana gives Trucks a sign to take another solo. Tedeschi gets in her licks by doing a call and response with Lindsay.
Before you know it, we're into the home stretch with a double whammy of "Evil Ways" and the John Coltrane soul hymn, "A Love Supreme." It may not be quite as magnificent as the original, but Santana's intentions are well received and, as always, reverent without fault. "Sunshine Of your Love" gets 'em dancing in the aisles and "Smooth" drives the ladies loony. "Soul Sacrifice," the song that made Santana a star at Woodstock, is a little more streamline, but gets a big boost from Chambers and percussionists Karl Perazzo and Raul Rekow. They all eventually leave the stage to Chambers who chews his gum and finesses through a captivating solo of his own (he wasn't about to let Mrs. Santana get the only one of the night).
When Santana winds down with something as elegant as "Samba Pa Ti," it reminds you of how great a stylist the man is. The uplifting "Into The Night" gives way to "Love, Peace And Happiness" and "Freedom" and the show ends on a very solemn and graceful note. Once you put away the handkerchief, head over to the Bonus Features section and watch as Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackstone chat it up about their careers, Montreux and each other. A Behind The Scenes segment captures the band's arrival to the festival, setting up, the sound checks and usual stuff you supposedly never see. Live At Montreux 2011 lets you see it and a whole lot more.
~ Shawn Perry