Carlos Santana & Wayne Shorter: Live at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival [DVD]

Your chance to see genuine musical legends struggling against the tide of perfidious fashion - and losing.

Carlos Santana & Wayne Shorter

Live at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival

MPAA rating: N/A
Label: Image Entertainment
US Release Date: 2007-02-27
UK Release Date: 2007-02-26

Maybe it’s apocryphal, but the genesis of this much-talked-about but little-seen concert is said to stem from a conversation in which Santana asked Shorter’s permission to start a rumour that the two legends were going to form a band together. That dynamic speaks volumes: the earnestly jazz-loving rocker respectfully currying favour with one of jazz’s greatest and most esteemed living practitioners, a bona-fide saxophone legend who cut his teeth in Art Blakey’s hard-bop hot-house before going on to energise Miles Davis’ classic mid-'60s quartet, and then co-found the quintessential '70s funk-fusion super group, Weather Report. What’s more, it’s a relationship that translates directly onto the screen.

Sure, Santana’s leading the band, making the announcements, seems to be calling the shots, but as soon as Shorter raises his horn to his lips, all eyes are on him; you can pretty much feel the admiration and awe oozing out of the rest of the band. And it’s unsurprising. Shorter is a heavy dude. It’s not just his history: he prowls the stage with a kind of heavy-lidded menace, raking rough and insistent solos out of his soul. There’s no doubting his authenticity.

It has to be said, too, that Santana’s not exactly a flimsy pop star. Almost 20 years after setting the stage on fire at Woodstock, this film finds him still a master of the incendiary guitar solo, with a yearning, deeply spiritual tone that remains unmistakably his own while there’s something hugely reassuring and entertaining about his ability to enter into a private world of ecstatic bliss – lips pursed, eyes screwed tight, head thrown back in Dionysian abandon – at the drop of a plectrum, literally seconds into any solo he takes. Bring these two musical firebrands together and you should probably be able to expect fireworks.

All of which makes the reality of this show just a tiny bit disappointing. Now, don’t get me wrong, it has its moments. "Incident at Neshabur" is prime Santana, little diminished since first revealed on 1969’s Abraxas. And "Elegant People" is one of Shorter’s most enduring compositions -- an epic funk masterpiece here benefiting from the agile bass of Alphonso Johnson -- the very same bassist who first nailed the slippery changes when the tune appeared on Weather Report’s 1976 album Black Market. Moreover, there’s some astonishing musicianship throughout the entire show: Patrice Rushen contributes some lengthy, dizzying piano solos and almost every tune is enlivened by the percussive barrage of Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler on drum kit, Jose Chepitos Areas on timbales and the conga playing of the legendary Armando Peraza – a musician whose first American gigs were with Charlie Parker in '50s New York and whom Santana rightly summarises in a brief interview as playing percussion “on a Coltrane level.”

And yet, there’s one major thing wrong with the whole affair: it’s got the '80s written all over it. I’m not just talking about the superficial crimes against fashion: Santana’s leather pants and Shorter’s baggy pastel linen suit with sleeves hitched to the forearm – the two of them coming across like the jazz world’s very own Crocket and Tubbs; or Patrice Rushen’s preposterous Latoya Jackson meets the Bangles get-up; or even Jose Chepitos Areas almost unbelievable mega-afro, a voluminous hair-hat that seems to move almost completely independently of the rest of his body like a disobedient dog sitting on top of his head. No, these little peccadilloes are rather amusing in their own way.

I’m talking about something far more damaging bequeathed to us by that most plastic of decades: I’m talking about the effect on the music itself. Almost every tune is in some way ruined by a soulless, artificial synth-preset – lashings of plastic strings or unconvincing horn stabs that turn what could have been gritty jams into saccharine drive-time, coffee-table radio fodder, slickly over-produced, so-tight-it squeaks pastel niceties. To hear these stellar musicians cranking out such sanitised fare, dragged down by the whimsy of historical accident, is almost enough to make a grown man cry.

In a just and loving universe, this gig would have taken place 20 years earlier when these guys were allowed to sweat. Instead, we get this sojourn in a tasteless wilderness. It’s probably best to just put it behind us and move on to something more nourishing – like, I don’t know, Poptarts, or something.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.