Carlos Santana Presents:
Blues at Montreux 2004
Eagle Rock Entertainment
By Bob Putignano

This three DVD box set captures a very special night at the Montreux Festival for any blues or music fan. Carlos Santana graciously acts as musical director for three blues legends took to the stage and does cameo performances with Bobby Parker, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, and Buddy Guy. Each one delivered a full concert set jam packed with some top notch guitar playing. Lets face it, "Gatemouth" and Buddy Guy are headliners all by themselves, so imagine adding to the mix the very gifted, creative and explosive Santana, as well as Nile Rodgers and you have some very historic music captured on DVD for you the listener to sit back and enjoy.

To my knowledge Carlos Santana has never called himself purist Blues player. Most of his music has much more in common with the fire and brimstone he crafted back in the late sixties at Bill Graham's legendary Fillmore West. But Carlos often been quoted saying that he was Blues influenced by Blues masters like John Lee Hooker (remember his great work on Hooker's "The Healer?",) Otis Rush, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and many of our other heroes.

The Bobby Parker DVD set is pretty okay, and as Parker does not get on the road much, and as far as I know- he has never been captured on DVD, so that alone makes this first disk nice to have, and like so many bluesmen Parker really never received the recognition he should have deserved.

And what a treat it is to see Gatemouth looking so sharp and strong on stage, with that classic/terrifying gleam in his eyes. Gate never liked to be described as just a Blues player and preferred to be called a musician who played all genres, and this performance shows Gate's love of jazz, swing, blues, and country. Gate's set is with his long-time NOLA band and features Joe Krown on B3, and the dynamic Eric Demmer on sax. It's pretty interesting that when Santana joins Gate's set, Gate picks up the viola; Lord knows Gate had balls, but it all works marvelously, as Carlos looks to be having a lot of fun playing with such a master like Gatemouth Brown.

The third DVD features Buddy Guy who is in an unusually good mood and is truly playing his butt off. Added to the mix is the always thrilling vocalist Barbara Morrison who gets into a nasty down and dirty duet with Buddy which is a total raunchy blast- both performers really looked like they were having a ball and hammed it up big time. Then Carlos joins the proceedings, and the electricity soars, as Buddy and Santana trade of licks like they have been doing it for decades. What became apparent to me (especially during the Guy set) is that Santana is a very good listener and very sympathetic of his guests, he does not try to steal the show, and while these two guitar Gods cut it up real hot, no one attempts to over-shadow each other, its all very special to watch and enjoy. Oh and check out the encore of what's called "Jam Session 2" where they really funk it up, as Nile Rodgers lays down the groove for Carlos and Buddy to jam out!

In summary, this is one hell of a DVD recording, it is by no stretch over produced nor planned, in fact it's very impromptu, loose, spontaneous, and the musicianship is top shelf & often on fire, which makes this DVD a "must have" addition to your music library.

Bob Putignano

Bob Putignano
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society