Various – Viva Carlos

A Supernatural, Marathon Celebration
Viva Carlos
(Tone Center – 2006)
by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

One of last year’s “best of” releases was a Weather Report tribute album from Tone Center, a label that has become known for putting out some of the finest fusion music of the 21st century… and for tribute albums. This time they’re at it again with a guitar tribute to Carlos Santana called “Viva Carlos, A Supernatural Marathon Celebration” that is just a lot of fun! Ten guitarists from the jazz, rock and blues worlds, including Pat Martino, Robben Ford, Eric Johnson and Frank Gambale subjugate their own distinct style to pay tribute to a musician that is so iconoclastic that even the most casual music fan knows his sound after hearing just a few notes.

Mike Stern gets off the best Carlos licks on the album playing the solo from the very well known Santana hit “Oye Como Va” which appeared on Santana’s second album “Abraxes” in 1970. Did you know that “Oye Como Va” was written and originally performed by Tito Puente? In fact, Santana’s first four hits all had jazz ties with songs written by percussionist Willie Bobo, guitarist Gabor Szabo and the song “Jingo” (played on this album by blues man Eric Gales) by drummer Michael Olantunji. Santana garnered the respect of jazz fans early in his career by recording John Coltrane’s “Welcome” and Gene Ammons’ “Jungle Strut”, a version of which is also on this album.

Seven of the ten tracks are those sweet and sassy Santana original instrumentals that were included on every Santana classic album. Another notable performance features the legendary Pat Martino playing the title track to the Santana album “Moonflower,” subtly allowing his own signature style to come through on this Santana classic.

Kudos to guitarist Jeff Richman who has produced all these tribute albums on the Tone Center record label. Keep up the groove.