We could all learn something from our fathers. My father and my mother are my all-time heroes and, although they weren’t able to teach me anything about guitars, they taught me a lot about life. Carlos Santana’s father passed along something to his son for which all of us Santana fans should be grateful: phrasing.
It was obvious right from our first sight of Carlos on the stage at Woodstock that he had something special. A big, big part of his musical signature is his unique way of phrasing the notes he plays, and that is something he inherited – or absorbed, perhaps – from his father’s trumpet playing.
Carlos has always been a slave to melody, which is another of the reasons his music is so important to me. Influenced by a tremendous variety of music and musicians, Carlos always manages to create beautiful melodies in both his playing and composing. Though usually labelled a latin-rock guitarist, Carlos Santana is very highly respected by the top artists in the worlds of jazz, blues, gypsy and new age. He has even contributed to concerts and studio recordings with artists as diverse as Wayne Shorter, Vernon Reid, Weather Report, Ottmar Liebert and Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji, who helped Carlos develop his famous percussion jam, “Jingo”. Carlos’s own guitar influences include Mike Bloomfield, Jimi Hendrix and Hank Marvin.
His Style and Instruments
Originally using mainly Gibson SG and Les Paul guitars, he switched to Yamahas as his main instruments in the late ‘70s and since 1982 he has used PRS electric guitars almost exclusively. His distinctive tone comes mainly from his amplifiers and not from effects pedals, of which he uses relatively few. Typically he feeds his guitar signal to three amps to produce three distinctive sounds. Of late, these amplifiers are Mesa Boogie, Bludotone and Dumble makes and he switches between them in order to allow his guitar to emulate human head, chest and belly singing.
Incidentally, Carlos is responsible for the “Boogie” part of the Mesa Boogie amplifier name. When he first tried a Mesa amp (which were souped-up Fender amps), he commented: “That little thing really boogies!”
If you like Carlos Santana’s music but have only listened to the awesome Abraxas album and his more commercially successful ventures, it’s time you investigated the remainder of his massive and varied output. Get yourself copies of Blues For Salvador, Borboletta, Gypsy/Grajonca and El Farol. Look for his wonderful collaborations with Ottmar Liebert, John McLaughlin, Alice Coltrane, Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper and others. If you are ever in a used CD store and come across the album with no name. commonly known as “Man With The Out Stretched Hand” pick it up. Great, great stuff!