Carlos Santana on Reuniting His Band's Original Lineup for New Album 'Santana IV': 'There Was an Immediate Chemistry Again' (Song Premiere)

Santana 2016
Courtesy Photo


The undeniably smooth, and "Smooth," flavor of "Leave Me Alone," the latest preview track from the forthcoming Santana IV album -- did not go unnoticed by the members of the reunited band.

"It does have that air to it," keyboardist-vocalist Greg Rolie tells Billboard. "When we first played it, Carlos put that melody on the front of it, and (Michael) Shrieve and I looked at each other and went, 'There it is!' And then I had to really come up to the party to make sure the lyrics were good and match up to the guitar, 'cause it soared right from the get-go."

Drummer Shrieve, in fact, takes credit for getting "Leave Me Alone" started in the first place. "It was something I had sitting around and had worked on for a little while," he recalls. "It's not a complicated thing. It just felt good and felt like I could bring this to the guys and we could jam on it and they can really make it into something, which is exactly what happened."

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That process is what accounts for all 14 tracks on Santana IV, the first album since Santana III in 1971 to feature Santana, Rolie, Shrieve, percussionist Michael Carabello and guitarist Neal Schon, who went on to co-found Journey with Rolie. The reunion was spurred by Schon in 2013, initially as a collaboration between him and Santana which subsequently expanded into getting the band back together. The five musicians first got together at Santana's office/studio in Las Vegas, where he performs a periodic residency at the House of Blues, and the rehearsals were immediately fruitful.

"We started playing and it was like watching dolphins jump in the ocean again after being at Sea World or something," Santana remembers, "We just went in there and started jumping around and chirping and laughing, and before we knew it time just passed like crazy and we had the first 12 (songs) and then 24 and then 42, just jams of songs. There was an immediate chemistry again; When I close my eyes and I hear the sound emanating from everybody it is intact, who we are and what we do from the Fillmore and the Carousel and the Avalon Ballroom to Woodstock and beyond. This is the sound. We always made our music from jamming. We just play off each other, and that's exactly what happened this time, the same formula -- with more knowledge."

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Fleshed out by bassist Benny Rietveid and percussionist Karl Perazzo from Santana's current band, and by soul great Ronald Isley, who's a guest vocalist on two tracks, Santana IV comes out April 15. The group played an inaugural show on March 21 in Las Vegas and has three more dates lined up with Journey: April 13 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, April 16 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut and April 16 in Allentown, Pa. All parties hope to play more and to perhaps turn Santana IV into a going concern, but they're approaching it cautiously due to other commitments -- including the existing Santana band, Journey, Rolie's work with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band and upcoming solo album, and Shrieve's projects with Spellbinder and the all-star Drums Of Compassion.

"That's something that will develop," Santana says. "I would love to (do more), but it's not up to me. I'm not pushing things. I'll just see what everybody wants to do. We just did this (Santana IV) and we'll see. It's like Desmond Tutu says -- 'Work in progress, more as it develops.'"

Shrieve, meanwhile, adds, "I would really like for that to happen. We'll see what happens with the reaction to the record when it's released and how everything goes. I hope we can tour with this band and do more than a handful of dates at some point, 'cause it is a rich little piece of chemistry here that we all share together -- not just history, but chemistry when we get together.