Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 | 2 a.m.
On any day, Carlos Santana is uncommonly spiritual, but he is especially spiritual today.
Santana is Spiritual 2.0. He is supernaturally spiritual.
This is likely because the year ended in a flourish for the guitar great and world-renowned artist.
In December, Santana was a recipient of the 36th Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C., lauded along with Shirley MacLaine, Billy Joel, Herbie Hancock and Martina Arroyo. He neared the finish of his inspired Latin-flavored album “Corazon” and electrified a crowd of about 15,000 during a show at Arena VFG in Guadalajara, Mexico, near his hometown of Autlan de Navarro in Jalisco.
And just as the holidays approached, in a wholly unexpected development, Santana was reunited with his former bandmate Marcus “The Magnificent” Malone in Oakland, Calif.
Stanley Roberts, a reporter for San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON Channel 4, had discovered Malone coincidentally while reporting a story about illegal dumping in an Oakland neighborhood. Roberts contacted Santana’s camp to notify them that a person who played in his band 40 years ago was now living on the streets of Oakland.
Santana flew to the Bay Area in December to embrace Malone, and it is that topic that has energized him during this phone conversation, which was arranged to remind his fans in Las Vegas that he is returning to House of Blues in Mandalay Bay for a set of shows today through Feb. 1.
I ask, first, about Mr. Malone. What’s happening with him?
“I am so glad to talk about this. My experience with Marcus Malone is that people need someone to be present with love and help them utilize their wings again,” he says. “Everyone has wings, and they’re never really clipped. It’s just that they stop using them.”
Santana has returned Malone’s wings in the form of providing his long-disconnected friend with his instrument of choice, a place to live that is indoors and a place to ply his craft.
“I gave him a set of congas, and we put him in an apartment instead of the streets,” Santana says. “We’re helping him out. But I’m not invested in the final outcome of his life because I’m not here to tell people who to be, what to do or how to do it. That’s an imposition. But I am interested in inviting him to record two songs with me.”
That is in reference to the upcoming album “Santana IV,” in which Santana will reassemble some of the players from his original studio lineup. Guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Shrieve and percussionist Michael Carabello are all returning for an album to be recorded at Odds On Studios in Henderson beginning in mid-February.
“We never did ‘Santana IV,’ it was just the first album (“Santana”), then ‘Abraxus,’ and the third album (“Santana III”), and then we stopped,” Santana says. “We went to ‘Caravanserai,’ which is more like jazz, so we are in the process of getting the original band back together with our original sound.”
And Malone, who has alternately lived in addiction and incarceration for the past 40 years, is invited to “find his own way in life,” as Santana offers.
When I suggest that the music icon is teaching the legendary lesson of showing a man how to fish rather than giving him fish, he chuckles and says, “You know, where we are today is instead of giving somebody a fish or teaching somebody how to fish, let us investigate who owns the lake.”
“Keep it pristine, don’t pollute it,” he adds. “Don’t trash your water, your mind, your body.”
A Las Vegas resident for four years, Santana hopes to organize fundraising concerts annually to help pull Las Vegans who are homeless off the streets and allow them to use their wings, as he puts it, once more.
“I look at what my brother Andre Agassi has done, reaching out to the people with deep pockets and beautiful hearts,” Santana says. “I’d like to do a yearly concert to benefit and help anybody get off the street and into a place where they can help themselves. … What we don’t have right now is the willingness, but with the willingness ignited, it can happen.”
The upcoming set of shows is very much a spree before Santana takes off at the end of the month to perform in South Africa, Dubai and the southeast U.S. before returning to Las Vegas in the late spring to resume recording.
I mention the talk around town of him returning to House of Blues late this year.
“I think so,” he says. “We both want to renew this configuration.”
So … when is he planning to be back onstage? It’s a question answered in a kind of musical manner.
“I like very much the vibe at House of Blues, the people there, and when I open my eyes and close my eyes, I feel Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, everybody I love in that place,” he says. “And so, yeah, we’re going to come back in November with new music by that time, as we’re in the process of doing just that.”
Santana plans to open and close his eyes and see some of his friends and idols in person, too.
“I want to invite other musicians to come and jam with us sometime,” he says. “Whether it’s Prince or Sting or whoever. Come over and find out how delicious it feels for us to play your songs with my band.”
As he is about to hang up, he asks for everyone to be what he calls “weapons of mass compassion.”
I say, “It’s a deal, and I promise I am going to find out who owns the lake.”
And Carlos Santana, the one who unites everyone, has that answer, too: “We all do, man. We all do.”