Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Santana connection

Carlos Santana is known to have jammed with Guaraldi during at least one public concert: on October 7, 1972, during a benefit at the College of Marin in Kentfield, California. Santana acknowledges this on his own website, without giving any other specifics about the gig. And while the entire event apparently was broadcast by a local radio station, only a few short fragments have survived, as I discussed in a previous post.

I've been reminded of this Santana/Guaraldi connection by the recent arrival of the former's autobiography: The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light, published on November 4, 2014. Curiosity prompted a perusal of this volume, to see whether Santana chose to discuss Guaraldi to any degree. The answer is yes, and while the citations are brief, they're certainly respectful.

The first occurs as Santana looks back on the summer of 1963, when he's "almost 16":

Carlos Santana, circa the mid-1960s
San Francisco was like that jukebox [at the Tic Tock Drive In, at Third and King, where Santana "began his career as a dishwasher"]. Actually, San Francisco was a jukebox. The Mission was full of nightclubs, and I had friends there who had stereos. And San Francisco in general had lots of clubs and radio stations playing a variety of styles. KSOL — "Kay-Soul" — was one of the city's black stations. That's where Sly Stone started as a DJ. "Hey, you groovy cats..." He had his own thing that early. I heard a wild jazz organ on KSOL late at night — someone named Chris Colombo doing "Summertime" and just killing it. KSOL introduced me to Wes Montgomery, Bola Sete, Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith. They played Vince Guaraldi a lot. ... Basically, the city was a cornucopia of music — more than I had ever expected. I started hearing about clubs I would later try to sneak into — like the Jazz Workshop, all the way down Van Ness and over on Broadway, near the North Beach area. Just a few doors down was El Matador, where I would hear Cal Tjader and Vince Guaraldi for the first time, and later Gábor Szabó. El Matador was where I heard the amazing Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete for the first and only time.

The next mention comes a bit later, in late 1965:

That fall, I met Michael Carabello for the first time. He was a friend of Yvonne's [Christian] and would have been at Mission High except that his baseball skills got him into San Francisco Polytechnic. He remained close with his friends in the Mission, where he lived. Carabello had gotten hooked on music when he played congas in these informal jam sessions at Aquatic Park, very close to North Beach, and had even sat in once with Vince Guaraldi.

And, finally, a few more years along, in May 1969:

We weren't the only band getting it together [at San Mateo's Pacific Recording Studio] at that time — Vince Guaraldi was rehearsing there, too. At one point, he came over to our room and said, "I got to tell you, man, I was listening to your music, and I can tell the direction you guys are going — you guys are going to be big, man. Big." That was an amazing confirmation of what we felt. I used to see Guaraldi a lot, because we played in a lot of the same benefits. I also saw him play at an outdoor show at Stern Grove with his trio, and Bola Sete and John Handy were on the bill, too. It was my first love-in, and everyone was smoking weed, but the music was amazing. It felt like Guaraldi stepping in and giving his approval helped turn things around.

That Stern Grove show likely would have been one of Guaraldi's many appearances at the annual summer "Jazz in Stern Grove Musical Festival," probably in 1966 or '68 (since both those shows also featured John Handy's combo).

Guaraldi clearly was one of the smaller ships passing in the wake of Santana's blossoming career, and yet the latter's acknowledgment obviously is sincere, even grateful. Guaraldi rarely gets any sort of mention in jazz biographies or overviews, so it's double nice to see this shout-out by an icon from an entirely different portion of the music world.

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