‘That might happen’: Gregg Rolie confirms talks for a reunion with Carlos Santana

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Gregg Rolie had become so estranged from Carlos Santana by the time they were set to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that he almost didn’t attend. They’re apparently inching closer to reconciliation now.

Interviewed while part of the recently completed tour of Ringo Starr’s latest All-Starr Band, Rolie didn’t rule out a reunion with Santana, something that would reconstitute one of the late 1960s and early 1970s most intriguing musical partnerships.

The Santana band burst into the national consciousness when their explosive 11-minute instrumental “Soul Sacrifice” at Woodstock became one of the festival’s defining moments. 1969’s Santana went two-times platinum, yielding the tracks “Evil Ways” and “Jingo”; 1970’s Abraxas was five-times platinum on the strength of “Black Magic Woman”; and Santana III went two-times platinum behind “No One To Depend On” in 1971.

By then, however, Rolie — and second Santana guitarist Neal Schon — were growing increasingly disenchanted with the band’s turn away from hard rock and Latin grooves toward fusion jazz. Rolie and Schon would leave to form Journey, and Rolie continued there until the turn of the 1980s. After some time away for family, Rolie has begun to build his own solo career, but his time with Santana remains a signature part of his musical life — even if Carlos Santana hasn’t.

Last year’s Rolie EP Five Days included a new take on “Black Magic Woman,” and he ended up performing a series of songs from his time in the group while on tour with Starr, as well. That’s led to new speculation about a reunion for the Santana band in some quarters, and Rolie has now confirmed that it’s a possibility.

“That might happen,” Rolie told UTSanDiego.com. “I’ve been talking to Carlos, so we’ll see where that goes. He gave me a call, and I have to call him back when I get done with this whole Ringo thing.”

Rolie has resumed solo dates in the meantime, playing tonight, August 19, 2012, at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon; then August 29 at the Lakes Performing Arts Center in Okoboji, IA; and October 31 at the Iridium in New York City with Alan Haynes. For additional dates, go to http://www.greggrolie.com/news.html.

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Gregg Rolie, Santana and Journey. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GREGG ROLIE, FOUNDING MEMBER OF SANTANA AND JOURNEY: Gregg Rolie, a 1998 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has learned a lot about himself since taking fame’s exit ramp to start a family almost 30 years ago. He’s put into perspective the work done as a founding member of Santana, a stint that saw Rolie co-produce the group’s first four albums beginning in 1969. The bluesy B-3 stylist then added to an overstuffed resume that already included an appearance at Woodstock, leaving with Neal Schon to launch Journey. There, he helped craft a series of 1970s recordings that set the stage for that band’s arena-rock supernova moment in the 1980s.

GREG ROLIE – FIVE DAYS: Gregg Rolie, a founding member of Santana and then Journey, is probably best remembered as this tiny speck playing keyboards in a sold-out arena. That’s what made this deeply introspective project, recorded live with just piano and vocals, an unexpected and intimate revelation. Rolie offered a couple of originals, took on the pre-war blues standard “Trouble in Mind,” and (in a treat for fans) reexamined two of his most memorable vocals from those seminal rock bands — “Anytime” and “Black Magic Woman.” Rather than echoing his earlier successes, though, Rolie worked hard to find new insights within them. That, of course, meant Five Days didn’t blaze any new trails, but I don’t think that was the aim. Instead, Rolie stopped to examine a few familiar stones along the pathway. And he helped us see something there that we hadn’t before.

ONE TRACK MIND: JOURNEY, “FEELING THAT WAY/ ANYTIME (1978; 2011 reissue): A new Greatest Hits Vol. 2 was, in some ways, more interesting than Journey’s initial best-of compilation — if only because its songs haven’t necessarily become ear-wormingly familiar. Perhaps the most potent examples are these twin 1978 gems from Infinity, Journey’s first project with Steve Perry. His appearance would immediately transform an interesting, if often unfocused jam band — co-led by Santana alums Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon — into a hit-making juggernaut. This album easily became the band’s biggest seller to date, as Journey moved toward a tighter focus on songcraft.

SANTANA – GREATEST HITS: LIVE AT MONTREUX (2012): His sound is so crystalline, so special, that Carlos Santana remains recognizable with or without pictures. Yet for all of the accolades showered on this Mexican-born American guitar hero, not least of which is his inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Santana has always been as bold and colorful as he is collaboratively brilliant. Greatest Hits: Live at Montreux, filmed last summer, tends to underscore how these intersections have come to define his band — and, in some cases, how dearly collaborative voices like Gregg Rolie’s are missed.

Want more? The Gregg Rolie Band has a stand-alone Web site with additional music and other cool merchandise.

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