The purity of a Carlos Santana guitar riff slicing through the air may be one of the most perfect sounds of summer.
The tone and clarity of the man voted No. 15 in Rolling Stone's ranking of the 100 greatest rock guitarists makes his fusion of Latin, jazz, rock, and rhythm and blues music ideal for hot weather, when deep percussive grooves and blistering guitar solos are sustenance.
Outdoors at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre with its superb acoustics and beautiful setting should make for a special Santana show under the stars Wednesday.
He's taking a break from his regular Las Vegas gigs to tour in support of his appropriately titled "Shape Shifter" disc, a mostly jazzy instrumental release. It's a departure from his string of studio albums since 1999's massively popular "Supernatural," which featured a number of guest artists with the guitarist and his band in a more supportive role.
He followed "Supernatural" -- which included the hit "Smooth" featuring Matchbox 20 vocalist Rob Thomas -- with "Shaman" in 2002, scoring serious radio airplay with the Michelle Branch collaboration "The Game of Love" and with Chad Kroeger on "Why Don't You and I."
The formula seemed to dry up by "All That I Am" in 2005. The disc was panned by critics and didn't yield the kind of radio-ready hits as its predecessors despite appearances by Branch, Sean Paul, Joss Stone, and Los Lonely Boys.
Santana's resurgence with a new generation of fans in the late '90s and 2000s is just a part of his story. Rising to prominence in the late '60s as part of California's burgeoning rock scene, he and his band were ubiquitous on classic rock radio with songs such as "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen," "Oye Como Va," and "Evil Ways."
His first seven albums carved out a new path for popular music, melding Latin and jazz idioms with straight-forward rock. Like the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and the Doors, he and his band combined experimental jam band aesthetics with an ear for pop radio, forming an essential part of the soundtrack of the '60s and '70s.
He's been remarkably prolific, releasing nearly 30 studio albums since 1969 and touring regularly. Over that time he's carved out a solid spot in the rock guitar pantheon with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and B.B. King. His distinctive clean sound and piercing solos over complex Latin beats are instantly recognizable.
Santana will play at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $49.50, $75.50, and $89.50. They are available at all TicketMaster locations, livenation.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 or 419-385-5721, or visit the Toledo Zoo main box office Monday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The box office is in the Visitor Service/Guest Information Building. Enter from the Anthony Wayne Trail side of the Toledo Zoo.
Contact Rod Lockwood at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6159.