Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana feels ready to “stand onstage, tall with humility, and manifest something beyond.”
For over 50 years, Santana has transcended musical boundaries, from Woodstock to the Grammys, and from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the Kennedy Center. He continues to influence musicians of all generations.
Omaha-based blues guitarist Héctor Anchondo said that part of Santana’s legacy is paving the path for Latino musicians. Anchondo was inspired as a young musician seeing a Latino guitarist onstage, and he has tried to follow in Santana’s footsteps.
“Blessings and Miracles” was recorded during the pandemic and released Oct. 15, 2021. Santana’s new album brings together several of his family members: His wife Cindy Blackman Santana on drums, his daughter Stella on vocals, and his son Salvador on vocals and keys.
Santana, who will play the CHI Health Center on April 9, said it is “delightfully delicious” to play with his family. “We can just close our eyes and it becomes one breath.”
Collaboration among musicians of different styles is just as natural for him as playing with family. For Santana, moving through genres is like “taking a deep breath and trusting that the air will caress your lungs.” On his latest album, Santana collaborated with musicians from a wide range of genres, including Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, country musician Chris Stapleton, and rapper G-Eazy.
Santana has also collaborated with various jazz legends over the years, including Wayne Shorter, Alice Coltrane, and on his new album, the recently deceased Chick Corea. Improvisation rewards musicians with an abundance of possibilities. Santana said that Shorter calls jazz “I dare you” music. “I dare you to embrace the unknown and hang around without predictability,” Santana recalled from their sessions.
Local jazz guitarist Jacob “Cubby” Phillips admires this curiosity and willingness to explore. He started playing jazz guitar when he was young, and over time, he began performing with rock and R&B ensembles. His jazz skills were important in playing rock, but he said “there’s a certain aesthetic objective in that music … I had to adjust my hands and my vision and become more fluid.”
For Anchondo, moving between blues and rock has been fairly seamless. The biggest learning curve was moving into a different niche of the industry. Traditional blues continues to inform his playing, having recently won the solo/duo category in the 2020 International Blues Challenge through the Blues Foundation in Memphis, as well as having been nominated for a Blues Music Award.
Visions for the future are different from one generation to the next.
In the rise of virtual and livestream performances, Santana prefers the magic of records, eight-tracks and cassettes. Anchondo, on the other hand, believes the next generation of musicians needs to embrace the technology — especially smaller and mid-level artists.
Most in-person shows for Anchondo have 100 or 200 fans, but when he creates TikToks, he gets thousands of views. The exposure is great, he said, but the money is still in playing in-person shows.
“I think in the future you’ll be able to play on the street and have people pay in crypto and get hired to play a show in the metaverse, just hanging out in your office,” Anchondo said.
Looking toward the future sometimes means turning to the past. As a young guitarist, Phillips wants to continue developing a personal relationship with the traditions he cares about and finding ways to manifest that relationship in his playing — even when it means going against the grain or sacrificing commercial success.
Authenticity is key for Santana as well. Santana’s advice for the next generation of musicians is listening to Billie Holiday. “You learn how she phrases, how she feels. There’s a symmetry when you look at works of art, Picasso or Leonardo Da Vinci … If you want to be outside of time, if you want to hang around with the infinity, [that’s] what you need to create music that doesn’t go out of style.”
Santana says that “musicians are the ones who open the door to the future, different than politicians or religious people.”
On April 8, Anchondo will play The Jewell with his full band. He will also play the Slowdown on May 13.
Phillips is working with several ensembles, including Omaha Beat Brigade and singer-songwriter Miwi La Lupa’s band. He is working with Kansas City jazz musicians Ben Tervort, Zak Pischnotte and Brian Steever toward releasing an album. They will perform at the Omaha Under the Radar festival in July.