[The Kats Report]

Carlos Santana reunites with his classic bandmates for a new, throwback album


It’s not enough for Carlos Santana to call in his original bandmates to record the reunion album Santana IV. He wants these guys to share his neighborhood, too.

At least, that’s true of Santana’s fellow guitar great Neal Schon. For the recording sessions—at Henderson’s Odds On Studio—for the upcoming release, Santana has invited Schon and Schon’s wife, Michaele (famous for her role on Real Housewives of D.C.), to move into Santana’s neighborhood in the Ridges in Summerlin.

That’d be quite a homeowners’ association meeting.

“Yeah, I want Neal to live in Las Vegas,” Santana says during a recent visit to one of his favorite philanthropic fortresses, Three Square Food Bank. “I envision him living here, because once Neal gets enmeshed in this community, he will see clearly the Andre Agassi [Preparatory Academy] purpose, the Three Square purpose and all of the charity that happens here. You become imbued, which is a really beautiful word.”

Santana is back onstage, at his favorite level, at House of Blues at Mandalay Bay through May 31. This is the latest run of shows in a residency that started in the spring of 2012. Santana has lived in Las Vegas for a decade, and began recording Santana IV a little more than two years ago. The album has since been an oft-discussed topic among classic-rock fans around the world, as it reunites Santana with Schon, keyboardist Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Shrieve and percussionist Michael Carabello. Santana IV is to pick up where 1971’s Santana [III]left off, with the band returning to its original rock sound.

As for when we can expect to actually hear this album … “It will be done when it’s done. We don’t have any date set,” Santana says, grinning (Schon has said the album will be out by the spring of 2016). “We’re still chipping away, like Michelangelo chipped away at David, until it becomes what we envision it to be, which is a lot of raw, organic energy, and a lot of heart.”

Santana’s position in rock ’n’ roll culture means he can call just about any artist to enlist support for such an anticipated project. Left to be recorded are the balance of the vocal tracks, featuring Rolie and, maybe, another Santana favorite. “We have Gregg and, possibly, the Ronnie Isley,” Santana says, smiling once more as he references the famed co-founder of The Isley Brothers. “He’s doing great and will add to our energy.”

Independently, Santana and Schon have both talked of an idea conceived by Santana, which is for a kind of “history of Santana and Journey” combined tour. One idea is for the original Santana band to start the show and give way to the members who split off to form Journey. At the end, the bands would combine to close the performance. “The possibilities are enormous,” Santana says. “We can do something as Santana and Journey, apart and a combination of both. I just need to sit down and find out what do people want to do.”

Expect Santana’s wife, percussionist Cindy Blackman-Santana, to play a more active role in his ongoing artistic experimentation. Blackman-Santana is currently under contract with Lenny Kravitz, with whom she has performed and recorded for more than two decades. Expect that affiliation to end soon.

“She will be playing a more prominent role in the band, absolutely. She’s just about done with Lenny Kravitz and she’ll eject herself from that situation, and then we can create our own brand of music, her and I, whether it’s Santana or outside this band, or both,” Santana says.

Santana was for more than 45 years a friend of fellow Las Vegan and guitar legend B.B. King. Asked about one of his all-time guitar heroes, the man who soared into history at Woodstock summons a song of melancholy. “I’ll tell you what, grab B.B. King and Willie Nelson playing ‘Night Life,’ and it will hit your heart,” he says. “You’ll go, ‘Aaaah!’ If anyone can get 100 standing ovations playing one song, that’s the song.”

The guitar great sings the line, “The night life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life …” It’s a pure moment, summoning goosebumps. Some call that sensation organic energy, and it’s what Carlos Santana is all about.

Santana May 29-31; September 16, 18-20, 23, 25-27; November 4, 6-8, 13-15; 7 p.m.; $90-$170. House of Blues, 702-632-7600.

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