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Santana's Evil Ways 3
Thursday, June 02, 2005   By: Juan Paxety

Clave backwards

I checked out the online edition of the Miami Herald this morning to see what the "wealthy Cuban lobby group in Miami" had done to protest the appearance of the che-loving Carlos Santana. Apparently nothing that impressed the reporter.  I wonder, though, what it would take to impress a reporter (Jordon Levin) who writes:

Santana's classics -- Oye Como Va, Evil Woman -- are such a familiar part of our pop music fabric that you can forget what a distinctive musical vision he has. No one plays guitar like him, with that high-pitched, fluid, vibrating intensity. Like the greatest instrumentalists, he makes his guitar sing like a human voice. Wednesday night it howled like a blues singer, scatted like a jazz vocalist, went deep into a funk groove and exploded with rock pyrotechnics. He even picked off a sharp salsa clave.

I'll deal with Evil Woman, first - if I can stop laughing.  Evil Woman was, of course, performed by The Electric Light Orchestra, not by Santana. Santana's first big hit was Evil Ways - a riff I've been riding since I began commenting on Carlos.

I"ll avoid personification as well as howling, scatting, funking, and exploding. I wouldn't know how to pick off a sharp salsa clave. And neither did Carlos.  "Oye Como Va" is, of course, a Tito Puente song.  When Santana recorded it in 1971, Tito famously said that they had gotten the clave backwards. He quit complaining when the big royalty checks began to roll in.


(c)1968- today j.e. simmons or michael warren