Mona Lisa is a three-part suite that was inspired by a visit to see the actual Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris. The opening "Do You Remember Me," which was produced by Rubin, is an elegant tone poem that incorporates some of the onstage improvisations Santana has made a part of his live performances of the Supernatural hit "Smooth." "In Search of Mona Lisa" -- produced, along with the closing "Besame Mucho - Lovers From Another Time" by Narada Michael Walden -- is more upbeat and "more radio friendly, along with Bo Diddley," according to Santana. Jazz bass legend Ron Carter guests on "Besame Mucho" as well.
"These pieces were coming along," Santana says, "and after the second one my wife (Cindy Blackman) said, 'Hey, this sounds really great. Why don't we try another one and do a trilogy?' I saw the Mona Lisa and the creative started from me having enough gratitude and confidence from all the things I learned from my teachers."
The full album, meanwhile, will be out "between spring and summer," according to Santana, the product of 10 days in the studio with Rubin during which he and his band recorded 49 songs. "And they're killin', man -- you won't believe the energy in the songs," Santana gushes. "There were only two or three songs that we did twice -- everything else was done in one take, and we were doing, like, five to seven songs a day. It feels like a blur. They're all African music from different musicians I love. I'm not bragging, but I have this spirit with the band that they trust me to say 'That one's done, let's go to the next one...'"
Santana adds that he may consider playing the Supernatural album in its entirety at some point, but the one point of nostalgia he is focused on is Woodstock. "We've talked to (Woodstock co-founder) Michael Lang, but we don't know if he has secured a place," Santana says. "If they invite me, I'm in." In the meantime he's booked his own show at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on the site of the original festival. "Woodstock and Supernatural, I view them as a gimongous door that I walked through to the other side," Santana explains. "They took me to places I never dreamed were possible...and that just inspires me to keep reaching and searching with everything else I do."