Perhaps it’s indicative of the global climate in which we labor that the mere mention of the word “peace” elicits a spectrum of emotions, from tranquility to rage. We throw the word around, using it in conjunction with “victory” or “surrender”, as if one had anything to do with the other. In the process, we’ve almost succeeded in rendering the word “peace” another casualty in our headlong march to a politically correct, colorless world.
That’s partly why Santana: Hymns for Peace, Live At Montreux 2004 is one of the most engaging live performances to be released on DVD this year. At first glance, the title is a bit of a misnomer, since this is a concert that is anything but somber. This is a celebration of peace as it applies to the universal healing power of music. There’s no overt political agenda here—it’s more a cleansing of the soul, and the inevitable party that ensues as a result.
And what a party it is. Carlos Santana had been planning this since 1988, when he and sax master Wayne Shorter found themselves touring with the Miles Davis Band. They began to envision a tour that would also include Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and other musicians who envisioned a world of shared cooperation and aspirations on a global level. It would be 2004 before the dream was realized. Miles Davis had passed on, but Santana still clinged to his dream. So when Montreux Jazz Festival organizer Claude Nobs, gave him free reign to do what he wanted at the Jazz Festival in 2004, the dream reached fruition.
On 15 July 2004, Santana and a few of his friends played a concert that redefined live performances. It lasted for over three hours, and watching it even now, the mind boggles at how tight it is. First, there is Santana’s band itself, a formidable lineup that works seamlessly between Latin, African, jazz and soul rhythms, augmented by the vocals of Andy Vargas. They’re the backbone of all the performances in the concert, with Santana’s inimitable guitar stylings providing a unique flavor to all the proceedings.