The last time I saw Santana live was during their co-headliner tour with the Allman Bros. in July of 2012. The band’s trend of co-headlining East Coast concerts continues this year with Santana teaming up with Rod Stewart.
I go way back in concert with each of these legendary artists. I first caught Rod Stewart as lead vocalist with the Jeff Beck Group at the Fillmore East on July 3, 1969. I then saw Santana for the first time live the following year, November 14, 1970 at the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, New York. What’s interesting about both artists is that there was a significant gap in time before I saw either of them again. I re engaged with Santana in August of 2002 (a 32 year gap). I have since seen Santana perform live an extra 19 times (21 Santana concerts in 44 years, 20 of those shows in the past 12 years). I had not seen Rod Stewart perform in 45 years. So let’s do the time warp again 😉
The concert was billed as The Voice, The Guitar and The Songs, Rod Stewart, Santana. The Santana band was the opening act. It’s important to note that this is not the Santana Corazon Tour. If you look at the Santana.com Website you will notice that the Santana Tour dates reflect two different tours, the dates with Rod Stewart and the Corazon Tour.
Santana got things started in vigorous fashion. They began their set with “Toussaint L’Overture”an instrumental that really pops fromSantana III. Once they had us up and dancing the band segued into “Hope You’re Feeling Better” followed by the classic, “Black Magic Woman”.
Santana continued to mine Abraxas with “Oye Como Va” (Tito Puente). I was disappointed that the video screen above the band did not display the full video that accompanies this song. That video is a concert favorite as it shows many of the Santana album covers interspersed with Santana historic moments. The video is well sequenced and greatly enhances the popular Latin standard.
I watched with keen interest the new members of the Santana Band. Conquero Raul Rekow (since 1978) has been replaced by a powerful conga player in his own right, Paoli Mejias. He played with intensity and precision. Here is a video image of Paoli from the Sunday night concert along with an enhanced photograph of his congas.
“Corazon Espinado” from Supernatural featured Cindy Blackman Santana on drums, where she performed a tasteful drum solo.
My favorite part of the set followed next as “Jingo” got us in that tribal mood. The next choice, “Sacalo” featured our good friend Mr. Bill Ortiz on trumpet. “Sacalo” is the Spanish version of “Chill Out”, which Carlos recorded with John Lee Hooker in the 90’s. I loved hearing a Spanish extended blues number. It set the stage for the next song trilogy, “Saja/Right On/Umi Says” which comes from the Milagro album which is dedicated to the late Miles Davis and Bill Graham who we lost in 1991. Bill Ortiz really got down with his horn playing and to my ear channeled Miles Davis. The 90 minute set ended with “Smooth/Dame Tu Amor” and yes Santana Made It Real 😉
Rod Stewart followed next in sharp contrast with a 12 piece band of young male and female musicians. It was very much the Las Vegas act where Rod Stewart performed his hits against an interactive graphic backdrop.
Carlos Santana joined Rod Stewart for one number, the Etta James classic, “I’d Rather Go Blind”. My earlier thoughts about Bill Ortiz channeling Miles were validated by Carlos Santana who wore a T-Shirt that stated, “Listen to Miles Davis”. I found this meaningful when I learned the very next day was Miles 88th birthday. So I listened in-depth to Miles on his day out of respect.
Here is a taste of that song and other hits from Rod and his band.
Rod Stewart also featured an acoustic section of the show and he performed my favorite song of his written by Tim Hardin (who I saw many years ago at Staples High School in Westport), “Reason to Believe”. He also kicked and threw into the audience two dozen signed soccer balls. I found Rod Stewart to be the dandy who came across charming and genuine as a person.
Santana Set List:
GALAXY DANCE INTRO
1. TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTURE
2. HOPE YOUR FEELING BETTER
3. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN / GYPSY QUEEN
4. OYE COMO VA
5. MARIA MARIA
6. FOO FOO
7. *CORAZON ESPINADO-(CINDY & BENNY SOLO)
10. SAJA/ RIGHT ON/ UMI SAYS
11. SMOOTH/ DAME TU AMOR
*W/ CINDY BLACKMAN-SANTANA
Music is the form of expression which resides deep within our soul. Like John Lee Hooker always said, “The blues in you and its gotta come out”. Bill Ortiz’s latest recording, Highest Wish unearths our soul of musical expression through his unique spiritual healing voice.
Carlos Santana recently stated before a live audience, “Our highest wish is to touch your heart and remind you that you are significant.”
Bill Ortiz responds to that wish by creating spiritual voices through his gift, the trumpet, which resonates inside the music of our heart.
Highest Wish begins this welcome dialogue with the song, “Ha-Ya (Means Life)”. “Ha-Ya” is a spirited romp with vocals by Luqman Frank and Omega Rae who coax out just the right positive accenture from Bill Ortiz’s trumpet.
The song, “We Are What We Are” starts as a rap by Casual then effortlessly evolves into skin-deep jazzy, r&b rhythms. The interplay between Casual and Bill’s horn keeps us focused on the relevance of the lyrics. The message is we are the same affected by the agony and pain of social injustice.Luqman Frank and Femi Andredes lend vocal help to push that message along.
The track, “Highest Wish (Phoenix Black Mix)” featuring Zumbi of Zion I is a plaintive melody with the recognized wisps of a Carlos Santana guitar-lke ending.
“Since You’ve Been Gone” is a testament to a Mother’s memory. Lugman Frank invokes his best vocal groove on this number. He and Bill Ortiz become locked in a strong harmony. Together they ask her return to fill the void inside a son’s respectful heart.
“Winter In America” smartly acknowledges the Godfather of Hip-Hop, Gil Scott-Heron with lead vocalist Tony Lindsay (Santana) trading off lyrics with “The Grouch” on vocals and rap. The track is an ingenious remix that commences with Bill Ortiz’s horn compelling us to take heed and listen. The track is gutsy and edgy. It crystallizes our attention on what is really going on in the streets across America.
Rest in Peace, Gil-Scott
Without you the revolution would not
“I Still Believe” is another Phoenix Black remix of an inspirational track which features Linda Tillery invoking a charismatic spoken word rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from Oslo, Norway (1964). Zumbi of Zion I complements and embellishes the spoken word with rapas the truth rings out a poetic wisdom that encircles every heart that listens with historic humility.
“Do Your Thing” is an Issac Hayes song originally found on the Shaft Soundtrack (1978) as a 19:24 minute opus.Bill Ortiz’s R&B cover flows smoothly through the co-operation of Santana veterans Tony Lindsay on vocals, Andy Vargas (samples/drums programming), Chester Thompson (C.T.) on organ and Bill Ortiz (trumpet, flugelhorn). I can visualize the camaraderie in the studio when this track was laid down. Listen as Tony excitedly sings, “C.T. play for me, C’mon” and does he ever 😉
This is my favorite track on Highest Wish due to the sizzle and infectious groove it achieves. Santana fans will gravitate to this track and it will help attract a new base of fans for Bill Ortiz. This is a good choice for radio play if singles are still a viable option in promoting an artist’s music.
“Don’t Make Me Wait” is a danceable soul ditty that will have you moving your shoulders and tapping your feet. Cait La Dee is the featured vocalist who livens it up and in turn is joined by K-Maxx with a soulful rap interplay. Bill plays his horn enthusiastically like a salt and pepper shaker seasoning the song which just the right flavah.
“Full Circle” the Andy Vargas remix takes us out. It is the perfect instrumental to end the recording as we sail into the night, more at peace than we began this sonic journey.
Our good friend Bill Ortiz just announced his latest full-release CD, Highest Wish is available for pre-order. If you act now you can get a limited edition signed copy by Bill Ortiz for $15. Pre-orders will be shipping on or about August 15th.
There is also a digital album pre-order option for $9.99. Pre-order of Highest Wish including immediate download of 1 track in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or other formats. A link to the complete album will be emailed to you the moment it’s released. You can pre-order this option here.
Visit the Buy/Share Link on Bill’s Highest Wish page here. You can also get an advanced preview of Highest Wish feat. Zumbi of Zion I (Phoenix Black Remix) on that page. It’s tight, check it out.
Or if you’d like click on Bill’ s widget on the right hand side of this blog 😉
Highest Wish officially drops on September 4th.
I will be writing a review about Highest Wish for Bill on this blog soon. My wife and I look forward to catching up with Mr. Ortiz at the Santana East Coast shows with the Allman Brothers Band coming up later this month.
Bill Ortiz is the first artist I did an extensive interview for on this music blog in 2009. It was conducted as a companion piece for his first recording, From Where I Stand. We have been collaborating ever since.
I covered Bill Ortiz’s EP release Winter In America earlier this year. Highest Wish expands greatly upon Winter in America.
So stay tuned more to follow about Bill Ortiz and Highest Wish.
Today we honor the birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a national holiday. Happy Birthday, Dr. King, born on January 15, 1929.
Stevie Wonder , social activist, was one of the main figures in the campaign to have the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. become a national holiday, and created this single to make the cause known.
I am a student of non-violence and peace who is incensed about the state of poverty in the United States. The division between those who have and those who have-not has never been such a chasm. Today more than 46 million Americans are living below the poverty line the most ever in U.S. history.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his book, “Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community”, a book I was studying from on the day he died, reached out to the issue of impoverishment. I share his words with you in the hopes that we together can Occupy Poverty and wipe it from the face of the earth.
Where We Are Going
from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1967 book
“Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”
In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: There are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.
Up to recently we have proceeded from a premise that poverty is a consequence of multiple evils: lack of education restricting job opportunities; poor housing which stultified home life and suppressed initiative; fragile family relationships which distorted personality development. The logic of this approach suggested that each of these causes be attacked one by one. Hence a housing program to transform living conditions, improved educational facilities to furnish tools for better job opportunities, and family counseling to create better personal adjustments were designed. In combination these measures were intended to remove the causes of poverty.
While none of these remedies in itself is unsound, all have a fatal disadvantage. The programs have never proceeded on a coordinated basis or at a similar rate of development. Housing measures have fluctuated at the whims of legislative bodies. They have been piecemeal and pygmy. Educational reforms have been even more sluggish and entangled in bureaucratic stalling and economy-dominated decisions. Family assistance stagnated in neglect and then suddenly was discovered to be the central issue on the basis of hasty and superficial studies. At no time has a total, coordinated and fully adequate program been conceived. As a consequence, fragmentary and spasmodic reforms have failed to reach down to the profoundest needs of the poor.
In addition to the absence of coordination and sufficiency, the programs of the past all have another common failing — they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.
I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.
Earlier in this century this proposal would have been greeted with ridicule and denunciation as destructive of initiative and responsibility. At that time economic status was considered the measure of the individual’s abilities and talents. In the simplistic thinking of that day the absence of worldly goods indicated a want of industrious habits and moral fiber.
We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty.
We have come to the point where we must make the nonproducer a consumer or we will find ourselves drowning in a sea of consumer goods. We have so energetically mastered production that we now must give attention to distribution. Though there have been increases in purchasing power, they have lagged behind increases in production. Those at the lowest economic level, the poor white and Negro, the aged and chronically ill, are traditionally unorganized and therefore have little ability to force the necessary growth in their income. They stagnate or become even poorer in relation to the larger society.
The problem indicates that our emphasis must be two-fold. We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position, we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available.
In 1879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote, in Progress and Poverty:
“The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature, and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves, driven to their task either by the lash of a master or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who perform it for their own sake, and not that they may get more to eat or drink, or wear, or display. In a state of society where want is abolished, work of this sort could be enormously increased.” We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished. The poor transformed into purchasers will do a great deal on their own to alter housing decay. Negroes, who have a double disability, will have a greater effect on discrimination when they have the additional weapon of cash to use in their struggle.
Beyond these advantages, a host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life and in his own hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he know that he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts between husband, wife and children will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on a scale of dollars is eliminated.
Two conditions are indispensable if we are to ensure that the guaranteed income operates as a consistently progressive measure. First, it must be pegged to the median income of society, not the lowest levels of income. To guarantee an income at the floor would simply perpetuate welfare standards and freeze into the society poverty conditions. Second, the guaranteed income must be dynamic; it must automatically increase as the total social income grows. Were it permitted to remain static under growth conditions, the recipients would suffer a relative decline. If periodic reviews disclose that the whole national income has risen, then the guaranteed income would have to be adjusted upward by the same percentage. Without these safeguards a creeping retrogression would occur, nullifying the gains of security and stability.
This proposal is not a “civil rights” program, in the sense that that term is currently used. The program would benefit all the poor, including the two-thirds of them who are white. I hope that both Negro and white will act in coalition to effect this change, because their combined strength will be necessary to overcome the fierce opposition we must realistically anticipate.
Our nation’s adjustment to a new mode of thinking will be facilitated if we realize that for nearly forty years two groups in our society have already been enjoying a guaranteed income. Indeed, it is a symptom of our confused social values that these two groups turn out to be the richest and the poorest. The wealthy who own securities have always had an assured income; and their polar opposite, the relief client, has been guaranteed an income, however miniscule, through welfare benefits.
John Kenneth Galbraith has estimated that $20 billion a year would effect a guaranteed income, which he describes as “not much more than we will spend the next fiscal year to rescue freedom and democracy and religious liberty as these are defined by ‘experts’ in Vietnam.”
The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.
The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.
Gil Scott-Heron is our greatest urban poet. His words take us beneath the veneer of society where subsistence merges to form a greater understanding. It is Winter in America, 2012.
Bill Ortiz‘s EP recording Winter In America is a heroic attempt that helps us to avoid despair. The music and the message push us safely back from the precipice of the winter of our discontent.
The opening track is an ingenious remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter In America”. It commences with Bill Ortiz’s horn compelling us to take heed and listen. The track is gutsy and edgy. It crystallizes our attention on what is really going on in the streets across America.
“Winter In America” smartly acknowledges the Godfather of Hip-Hop, Gil Scott-Heron with lead vocalist Tony Lindsay (Santana) trading off lyrics with “The Grouch” on vocals and rap.
Well they say it’s a cold world
But we got a cold play my man
Rest in Peace, Gil Scott
Without you the revolution would not
What makes this EP even more full circle is the track, “I Still Believe”, a Phoenix Black remix with the eloquent spoken word voice of Linda Tillery and “Zumbi” from Zion I accenting with spoken word/rap. “I Still Believe” contains excerpts from Rev. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo.
The co-operation of Gil Scott-Heron’s revolutionary spirit lives on in his recently published posthumous memoir, “A Last Holiday“. There is a chapter in the book which details the tour that Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron were on to together where they lobbied for a national holiday for the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gil Scott-Heron draws the correlation between the assassination of John Lennon and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. two great men of peace struck down by violence. As I write this review we are on the edge of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and U.S. federal holiday. It just so happens that the Winter in America EP drops on Martin Luther King Day, January 16th, 2012 direct to fans.
Bill Ortiz states the purpose of this recording best when he says, “I try to bring all these elements of who I am musically into one voice.” You’ve done all that and more Bill with your fine achievement, Winter In America.
Thursday night my wife and I will attend our 30th concert of the year. We continue to happily do our part as loyal patrons of the arts. The concert features the double bill of Tower of Power with special guests Average White Band. An event that James Taylor would call a “churning urn of burning funk.”
The Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport, CT is the location for this event. This will be our third show at the Klein this season. It is also our sixth event with The Fairfield Theatre Company as member participants. FTC continues to offer engaging live music options for its patrons, which we are thankful to enjoy. 🙂
Tower of Power is another great product of the San Francisco Bay area from the late 60’s. Bands like The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Big Brother, Journey and others all helped to define the “San Francisco Sound.” Tower of Power has been a band I have wanted to see to complete that list (having seen all the others mentioned…).
I am excited to share my first national magazine music article with the readers of this blog. I was approached by Steffen Franz , CEO of Independent Distribution Collective, a couple of months back to write an article about our mutual friend, trumpet player Bill Ortiz.
The article is published with Churn Magazine, an arts and music magazine from San Francisco that is moving to a national distribution model.
Here is the cover of CHURN’s Spring 2011 issue along with the three page article. I hope you will enjoy what is written and published about Bill Ortiz, Soulful Communicator.
It was serendipity today that while I was using my iPhone with Facebook I looked up suddenly and voila there was our friend Bill Ortiz announcing his brand new iPhone app. I am impressed by this step in Bill’s career. I downloaded the app that Todd Tate built for him right away. I love being an early adopter 🙂
I urge you to give Bill Ortiz’s free iPhone app a spin.You can learn about his current recording, From Where I Stand. You can also download his EP, Judgement Day (The Remixes) with this iPhone app for $1.99 and receive a free digital booklet. Bill’s iPhone app promotes his Web site and MySpace pages along with his Twitter account. Smart move Bill.
I must get in touch with Todd Tate, the 5th Beatle to compare notes with him sometime about Web design and social media. I’m a big fan of both technologies.
Bill Ortiz’s debut CD, From Where I Stand is positioned as “An amazing mix of Neo-Soul, R&B and Nu-Jazz, from the trumpet player of Santana.”
Listeners are in for a unique experience of sounds and vibrations awaiting them on From Where I Stand. There is a mature depth to the soundscapes mined by established musician, composer, producer Bill Ortiz. Bill’s collaborations with San Francisco based co-producers, Lloyd (The Platinum Finger) Richmond and Steffen Franz (Stand Out Selector) yields a positive, diversified result. This audio CD will take you to new places; exposing you to beats, rhythms you’ve been longing to hear. Let’s examine the meaning of the musical genres and qualify those trends in relationship to the recorded tracks.
Neo-soul is a musical genre that fuses contemporary R&B and 1970s-style soul with the elements of hip-hop. Neo-Soul music is essentially modern-day soul music, with fashionable attitudes and sensibilities. It differs from contemporary R&B in that it’s obviously more soulful, and it also tends to have deeper messages and meanings than typical current R&B.
Nu-Jazz is a new era in music, blending ethereal soundscapes with hypnotic rhythms and sensuous instrumentals.
(The tracks reviewed are categorized Neo-Soul, Nu-Jazz and R&B with the following symbols.)
Neo-Soul = n§,Nu-Jazz = √∫,Rhythm & Blues = R/ß
Right from the first note of the initial track AyeJaye n§, you know where you stand with your musical guide Bill Ortiz. You are swept away on a magic carpet ride of orchestrated funk. Very quickly, Santana band mates, Benny Rietveld, (Bass) and Karl Perazzo (Percussion), pick up the rhythm on this track carrying you in a danceable direction. Bill Ortiz steps right in on top adding a rich layer of trumpet sounds. The various well-sequenced samples and audio effects round out this tune.
Little Sister, Little Brother R/ßis reminiscent of an old soul standard laden with honey. Regina Espinoza’s vocals intermix with the instrumental mood like a well-steeped late night cup of tea. The more you sip of this blend the more relaxed you become.
The songwriting/production partnership with Lloyd (The Platinum Finger) Richmond reaches a high point with Ease My Mind n§. The track does just what it sets out to accomplish by creating a mellow groove that puts you right at ease. Its like old friends who haven’t seen each other in awhile falling right back in step naturally as if no time has passed. Kenny Byars (Vocals and Song Co-Author) adds the right touch of modern soul with his spirited voice. Bill Ortiz’s trumpet playing echoes the sentiment expressed with extra flourish.
The instrumental track, Full Circle √∫ exhibits Bill Ortiz’s versatile skills with the trumpet, Arp Synth, Moog Bass, and samples. It’s a lively, upbeat composition smartly complemented by the other musicians onboard Peter Horvath (Wurlitzer Piano), Jubu Smith (Guitar), Sly Randolph (Drums, Midi Drums) and Jesus Diaz (Congas Bata, Percussion).
Slip Into This n§ starts off sounding like an old vinyl record to help in the transition from vintage soul to neo-soul. With no hesitation the funk builds then sustains itself throughout the track. Mone’t Owens provides just the right saucy soulstress vocal to spice up this selection with a repeatable chorus.
“Let go, relax your mind, unwind and slip into it”
Don’t worry if you felt that this track was too short or that you didn’t get enough pleasure from Slip Into This. Three tracks later we are treated to a hip-hop/rap remix, Slip Into It (Yay Area Remix) n§, with Mone’t’s vocals treating us again. She is joined vocally by Joshua Richmond Durham aka Fivehunnet Rap as MC.
Judgment Day is infectious as a rescaled, fast-clip, reggae tune with Bill Ortiz playing flugelhorn and muted trumpet. A little later on Judgment Day morphs into a dub track, Judgment Dub(Ras Dru Remix) with Rocker-T on vocals and lyrics, Ras Dru on Nybingi Drums. The dub track evidences how diverse a recording From Where I Stand truly is.
In Every Breath n§ is a tribute to the late soul musician Donny Hathaway. Church Boy performs the vocals over a well-crafted, measured jazz instrumental riff. The track then shifts to a soul funk that personifies the classic touch of vocals, piano and keyboards that are signature Donny Hathaway.
I Still Believe is an inspirational track that closes out the recording. It features vocalist Linda Tillery invoking a charismatic spoken word rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from Oslo, Norway (1964). The music that embellishes the architect of peace’s words strengthens how timeless Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is 45 years later. It is a fitting way to end From Where I Stand as the truth rings out a poetic wisdom that encircles every heart that listens.
Interview with Bill Ortiz, conducted on Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Ed: Bill, I love your new album, From Where I Stand, I was pleasantly surprised by it. I feel the dimensionality of the recording is uniquely diverse and that your music is a very replay able work of listenable art.
Bill: Thank you. Hopefully this CD has a thread of identity with my voice as a trumpet player throughout all the different tracks. I started playing gigs professionally in my high school years, which was in the mid 70’s. During that era the music business wasn’t so compartmentalized as it can be now. Many jazz musicians were experimenting with other genres, blending their music together with R&B, funk, rock and other styles. In addition, it was also a very important moment, not only in music, but also in other aspects of cultures, with the tail end of the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement. It was generally a very progressive time in the culture of San Francisco as well as the country.
When I first started playing gigs, pretty much all the musicians I was playing with were interested in playing all kinds of different music. Whether it was blues, R&B, jazz or whatever, it didn’t matter. It all comes from the same place anyway.
Ed: How did you choose the musicians you wanted to record and play with?
Bill: For the most part they were people that I was playing with at the time. Generally, the musicians I picked were the ones that I knew could deliver the sound and direction I wanted for that particular song. I know a whole lot of great musicians, and sometimes it’s not a matter of whether a person can play or not, it’s if they are right for the song. You want to have somebody that’s going to know where you’re going with the composition, and have the common vocabulary with you to bring out what you are looking for in the song.
In addition, in order to properly support your solo, it helps if they understand your conception and direction as a soloist. This stems from having that common musical view to understand where you’re going.
The guitar player I used on most of the tracks was John “Jubu” Smith, a great musician out of Oakland originally. I started out working with Jubu with Peter Apfelbaum and the Hieroglyphics Ensemble. After that, we worked together for a few years with the R&B soul band, Tony! Toni! Toné! I believe he started out as a gospel and blues player early on, but very quickly became a superb jazz musician-now of course he’s just a complete musician. It was just a no-brainer with his playing providing the certain element of what his voice brought to the table.
Ed: On the first track, AyeJaye, I like how you have Karl Perazzo (Percussion) and Benny Reitveld (Bass) from the New Santana on board. It’s a nice segue from the major work that you do with the New Santana Band.
Bill: Right. The funny thing is that Karl Perazzo and I have been playing together since I was like 20 or 21 and he was around 17, so we have a very long history of playing together, long before playing with Carlos. Benny Reitveld and I played together first in the mid 80’s with Pete Escovedo, after which he went off to play with Miles. We’ve had a long musical history as well.
Ed: How long have you been carrying some of these songs and sounds inside of you before you put them onto the recording?
It’s taken me four or five years to get this done because I’ve been so busy working with Carlos Santana on the road. Few of these songs might pre-date that a little bit as far as when they were first written, but pretty much I’ve been working on it the last four or five years.
If I hadn’t been so fortunate to be the road as much with Carlos, I would’ve finished the project quicker, but I’ll take that trade off any day. When you’re traveling so much and you’re home for a month and then gone for a month, it requires balance. It’s of course, a great honor and joy to play with Carlos so you get to it when you’re able to.
I have say I’m blessed right now to have some really great people working with me on a business level. I have a good friend of mine that has his own distribution company. His name is Steffen Franz and his company is IDC. We also co-produced two tracks on the album. It’s a rare thing in the music business when you have someone that is not only interested in the numbers and the pure business aspect, but is also on the same page of what you’re doing artistically. Steffen is supportive of independent musicians trying to make a statement musically and otherwise. I’ve also been fortunate to work with Ben Lang, Christopher Austria, Haley Meijer, Kurt Kunselman all also at IDC, publicist Christopher Buttner of PRthatRocks, and radio promoters Adam Leibovitz of ASL Music Media and Brian Gerhard of Massive Music America.
Ed: Your timing could be good as there appears to be a richer vein of jazz being mined and explored by listeners right now. I think your recording will do well with all the different tracks that I hear. It’s such a different time of music distribution and music listening. You never know what’s going to click with the audience that’s out there.
Bill: Yes. Things have changed so much over the last couple of years the way independent artists and independent record companies have a little stronger footing now, especially with the rise of MySpace, Twitter, imeem, ReverbNation and Facebook. In addition to standard advertising and distribution, the fact that you can be up in all these sites and tie people immediately into iTunes or CD Baby or whatever music social networking site that you’re working with is a big plus for the independent artist.
I just got word from Steffen today that From Where I Stand is available on iTunes as of this morning, which is great. The official release isn’t until July 14th, but part of the plan is to be up a couple weeks before the official release just to get everything moving, and get a feel for initial interest and other related activities.
Ed: I’m really pleased to see how many people you have become friends with already on Facebook, which is going to be a great catalyst for you.
Bill: It’s really quick. Facebook is great. MySpace is fun because you send out all these friend requests and you’re able to not only connect with people who might buy your new music, but you become aware of the incredible amount of great music all over the place that is grass roots of any kind of music. You hear reggae from Australia or hip-hop from Finland and it’s just incredible stuff.
It’s nice to have ways now for the public to not only to listen artist’s music but also to connect with the artist themselves. The social network sites create an option for artists not to be so removed inside their little ivory towers.
Basically, I kind of look at the music thing the same as Carlos. You get to the point in your life when you really value the bigger picture, and music is one of the few things that can balance the scales. It’s important to me to put something out there with a positive and unifying nature in a time that is starving for it.
Ed: You’re very proud of the I Still Believe track. Your influence for the song, is it from the days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or is it more because when you are with Carlos Santana you’re very focused, as he is, with being an architect of peace?
Bill: I think it’s all of it. First of all, I’m old enough to have seen first hand as a kid the impact of Dr. King’s life and his passing, and what the strength of his words accomplished for the world. To be able to take those words, which are as much or even more relevant now, and put them out there again in a time that they are needed now more than ever, it’s an honor. So that’s part it.
Part of it also I was touching on before, Carlos talks about music being a healing force which brings people together. You see it at our concerts, when people are listening to our music it’s touching their soul and transcends language, religion or culture.
If you take it a step farther, you then see it as an artist, that it’s not the ego. It doesn’t really even play a role but gets in the way instead. To me, it’s not about the actors, it’s about the act, and at that point it’s almost like you’re a conduit of something that comes from outside of you and through you. Whether you want to define that as pure creativity, divinity or whatever, you connect with that. It’s something definitely that is beyond yourself.
Ed: The song Judgment Day that is a reggae tune first and then is done as a dub mix second, Judgement Dub, I really like that combination. I liked when Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule did a whole dub based recording, Mighty High. I always felt that was a great experiment/risk for that jam band to take. Then to hear you do that treatment on your recording I thought was equal validation of dub as a re-mix experiment.
Bill: Thank you. It was something actually I kind of thought of doing maybe a couple of weeks before I was going to master. I really like when artists release not only their standard release, but dub releases as well, such as Garvey’s Ghost, by Burning Spear.
I liked what Branford Marsalis did on his first Buckshot Lefonque record. He had one song where they had two or three different re-mixes of the same song. It’s a way of taking a look at an object from different angles and stressing different things on it. If you’re listening to the two versions of Judgment Day, it’s the same song, but it’s a whole different interpretation of it. I was blessed to have the reggae artist Rocker-T provide some great lyrics and vocals, as well as have engineer and producer Ras Dru providing his vision with a great re-mix plus playing Nyahbingidrums.
Ed: The song Slip Into This, the seventh track on the CD, it starts off like an old vinyl record. Was that a vintage sound you were trying to achieve on behalf of the listener?
Bill: I worked with a Bay area writer on that particular tune whose name is Lloyd Richmond. He’s an incredibly talented and gifted writer and producer. We worked on a number of tunes on the record. That was a song he wrote and co-produced with me, it was his idea to throw in the vinyl sample. It ties in with how he and I were hearing not only that particular song but also the overall record. You take different influences, put them into a funnel and have them come out the bottom as your sound.
Taking elements of great classic R & B and soul music of the 60’s and 70’s and incorporating it with straight-ahead jazz, hip hop, neo-soul, and everything from the John Coltrane to Donny Hathaway, that was the concept. Therefore, the vinyl noise was kind of a nod to that classic period of R&B and jazz.
Ed: How much influence has nine years of playing with Santana had on the shape and sound of your recording?
Bill: Playing with Carlos had an influence on my improvising. When I started working with him in 2000, obviously, I was already well defined as far as my sound and my concept. But he has a way, not unlike Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis, of peeling away unnecessary crap in your playing and being more efficient with what you play. Every note you play means something, not preconceived, but just being very focused and every note meaning something.
I’ve never been the musician that was the “look at me, look at me” type. When I’m soloing I don’t to try to play on top of a groove, where the music stays the same and you’re pretty much just using that as a vehicle to play on top of. I’d rather play within the groove. That’s one of the things early Weather Report was doing, the role between the soloist and the ensemble becoming a little blurred. I love the organic nature of that, so even if you’re the soloist, there’s more conversation going on between people that are playing with you, and the music is different every night. I love spontaneous musical events. It’s enjoyable creating texture and moods more than creating a canvas for me to showcase myself on. Both approaches are valid and there are musicians who can do that much better than I
Ed: I don’t think a lot of people understand how hard everybody works with rehearsals prior to the show. I’m sure you probably had to put in some practice time before Europe because you don’t just walk out to the concert stage and step right into it.
Bill: In addition to that, just playing trumpet is a very demanding instrument. In a way it’s like you’re an athlete. If you don’t practice every day, you lose your control of your embouchure and then that’s it. I think Dizzy Gillespie was once quoted saying, “If you miss one day you know it. If you miss two days everybody knows it.” And it’s true.
It’s always a challenge on the road playing enough to keep my chops in tiptop shape so I don’t get a little rusty. So as far as the hard work we do, it’s not only the work that we do on stage and the rehearsals- it’s the years of playing the trumpet to get to the point of being having the skill set to handle the requirements of the job.
Ed: Bill, one of my favorite moments of you on video is the Supernatural DVD when you walk out the shadows during the rehearsals to watch Wayne Shorter play.
Bill: I can remember that moment. Since that day we’ve been blessed with playing with Wayne a number of times, such as touring Japan with him and Herbie Hancock during the Emissaries Of Peace Tour in 2005. But that was the first time I had played with him, so it was an incredible treat to see one of my heroes doing what he does.
You can learn a lot by the intangibles, how even before Wayne starts playing, how he approaches the moment. Through watching him I got a different level perspective of his thought process. I think at that moment it was a rehearsal, and I wasn’t aware that they were filming. I just walked by and they were playing and it was like, “Okay, here I am. I’m going to sit here listen to this moment of magic now.”
Ed: Tell me about the music you play when you’re not touring or recording with Santana.
Bill: Besides playing my own music I also work with an excellent jazz singer named Lavay Smith . She’s a Bay area person with a band co-led by her pianist Chris Siebert, called Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. I have a whole lot of fun playing with that band. Their basic approach is jazz and blues from the 40’s through the 60’s, with a lot of their music being influenced Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie tunes, and stuff like that. They have some really nice four horn arrangements, done by Chris Seibert, as well as David Berger , who does arrangements for Lincoln Center.
I also work with Karl Perazzo and the great conga player/educator Mike Spiro, who co-lead the Latin band, Conjunto Karabali . So, that’s a lot of fun. I do a lot of session work and freelance stuff, too. Hopefully with the CD coming out I’m going to be doing more and more of my own shows.