Bill Lancton’s Santana Tribute
Jazz Kitchen, Jan. 9
Bill Lancton and guitar are synonymous. Add his renditions of breakthrough compositions and interpretations by Carlos Santana and we’re gifted with the quality of metonymy. So, coming in, the Jazz Kitchen audience on Jan. 9 knew they were in the presence of something special as Lancton and his fellow players highlighted Santana’s oeuvre and influence across 56 years.
"Soul Sacrifice" took us back to Santana’s 1969 Woodstock breakthrough. Hal Leonard, in Voices of Latin Rock: People and Events that Created this Sound describes the playing as "a perfect example of the amalgam of old-world rhythms and strictly American licks" with "interplay between Santana and his band.” Jan. 9, we experienced a similar event with Allen Turk Burke on Hammond organ and vocals, percussionist Gerardo Bacerra, bassist Scott Pazera and drummer Vince Jackson. It’s a work that remains sinuously electrifying.
Lancton’s idea of a tribute is to show the main subject within the context of other composers in their time and place. By presenting the Meters 1969 funk instrumental "Cissy Strut" Lancton shows the milieu in which Santana was composing and conducting his band and how Santana built on Gillespie with Pozo and Fuller in 1947 setting the foundation of Afro-Cuban jazz with Manteca.
Tito Puente’s classical cha-cha-cha "Oye Como Va" can rhetorically ask, “Hey how am I doing?” or “Hey, how’s my rhythm doing?” In 1970 Santana popularized the 1963 song with his own then new style of Latin rock with the latter phrasing—thus asking us a half century ago to pay attention to inflection and intention. Changing up Puente’s original version is the way Santana got us to hear and think not just listen.
And that’s Lancton’s point about tributes. “I really want an audience to have fun, they come ready to enjoy,” he commented during a phone interview. And he wants to engage people with what Santana was accomplishing early on.
“There is a whole generation that knows Santana only from more recent commercial albums. People need to go back to Santana’s reflective 1960s and 1970s,” Lancton’s band gave us Santana’s full versions of "Henry’s Evil Ways" and full measure of "Samba Pa Ti." Green and Szaabo’s ’s "Black Magic Woman"/"Gypsy Queen" and Santana and Coster’s "Europa." For the record, The audience at the 9:30 p.m. set did not want to go home.