Words by: Aaron Lafont
Salvador Santana Band :: 10.24.07 :: Tipitina's Uptown :: New Orleans, LA
Since forming in early 2004, the Salvador Santana Band has been on a mission to take its music to the people. Much like his father's band, Salvador's group is dedicated to the art of fusion, both culturally and musically. In the late '60s/early '70s when Santana added elements of jazz, blues, and psychedelia to a dense polyrhythmic foundation, they created a unique, mysterious Latin sound that blurred genre lines and united fans from various cultures the world over. While the SSB's roots also stem from a distinctively Latin cadence, its sound is far from mysterious but rivals the originality of Santana. Perhaps taking a page from another Rock & Roll Hall of Famer's book, namely Sly and the Family Stone, SSB's sound expands from its leader's heritage to embrace those of its lineup. Also similar to Sly, the SSB spawns eclectic grooves and loose, earthy jams built on tight, funky rhythms.
| Salvador Santana Band by Deborah White|
Taking the stage between Cipes and the People and the B-Side Players, the SSB blended the flavors of Latin music, hip-hop, reggaeton and funk in the U.S.'s foremost musical melting pot, New Orleans. Immediately upon taking the stage at Tipitina's, the group's emphasis on collaboration was evident on the rootsy, hip-hop jam "Sounds Good," which displayed a collective unit as opposed to an individual catered to by his supporting cast. Salvador, though clearly the leader, neither basked in the spotlight nor overwhelmed the tunes with his playing. Rather, he served as an MC, directing the party's course with his verses and keystrokes. Also factoring heavily into the SSB experience were Quincy McCaray (Rhodes piano, Moog synth, vocals) and former Ozomatli member, Jose "Crunchy" Espinosa (alto sax, congas, flute, vocals), both of whom had no problem popping off solos or sharing MC duties. In addition to his otherworldly sax chops, Espinosa's stage presence anchored the young group, which has had its fair share of personnel difficulties in the past. McCaray, who is also a member of Quetzal, added substantial depth to the performance, particularly on the standout "Funky Thang," where his Stevie Wonder-like soul enriched the color and shape of Salvador's flow.
Given only 45 minutes, the SSB were just hitting their stride as their set neared its close, the crowd finally sinking into their textured Latin rhythms and lively, hip-hop stylings. The extremely short set not only significantly limited the SSB's ability to build upon their melodic foundations but also considerably hindered their ability to fully develop the rich moods and tones of their compositions. However, the time constraints forced them to put all their sounds on display at once and hope that the audience would instinctively latch onto the various elements. An experienced fan would have no difficulty identifying with these elements, but someone new to their music was presented with a serious hurdle to overcome in distinguishing all the elements at work. At Tipitina's, once the audience moved past over-stimulation, their hips were shaking, and once their hips were shaking, the SSB readily took things up a notch. Unfortunately, just as this occurred, their time was up.
| Salvador Santana by Deborah White|
Regardless of external limitations, the Salvador Santana Band certainly has what it takes to make a sizable imprint on the musical landscape. The current lineup, which has really come into its own lately, possesses the right balance of drive, talent and chemistry to evolve into a formidable unit. And the songs, which crisscross genres culturally and musically, offer an energetic, expressive perspective rarely found in today's musical climate.
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