Classic Latin band combines simplicity with soul on a visit to Salinas.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
When someone mentions Santana, it’s assumed they are talking about the legendary guitarist, Carlos, known for timeless crossover albums like Caravanserai and Abraxas. But Carlos’ younger brother Jorge enjoyed his own success in the early ’70s with his band Malo, which celebrates its 40th anniversary on Saturday at the Fox Theater with Zebop and the Chicano All-Stars.
“From an early age, music has always been part of my life, mostly due to my father who was a musician,” Jorge says. “In our teenage years, Carlos picked up the guitar and I followed his footsteps.”
Jorge would learn how to master the instrument by watching his brother play electric guitar, unplugged; Carlos could produce magical riffs as if the guitar was actually plugged in to an amp.
“I could hear the note he was trying to capture,” Jorge says. “The note would resonate like a jewel. If it doesn’t give you goosebumps to be able to feel what the guitarist is playing, I don’t know what will.”
Jorge started out in a Motown-esque R&B band called the Malibus, but he became deeply influenced by his brother’s jams, like “Soul Sacrifice,” and his technique evolved.
“When Carlos came out with this new style of music, we made a switch and went to Latin percussion ourselves and became Malo,” he says.
Under the musical leadership of Jorge Santana and Arcelio Garcia, Malo released its first self-titled album in 1972. Jorge describes the album as a “product of the last wave of the ’60s-hippie-music movement.”
“I feel that the sound of Santana and Malo are the only two bands that really represent the San Francisco sound as far as Latin rock: It’s just pure electricity, adrenaline and musicianship,” Jorge says.
Malo’s most popular tune “Suavecito,” became known as the “Chicano National Anthem.” Jorge credits the tune’s success to the new generation of music lovers who were aware of the growing Chicano music scene in the 1970s.
“I believe we came from a generation where the choice of notes were less than the multiplicity of the notes,” he says. “We preferred a more melodic sound that moved the listener.”
Malo never really reached the popularity level that Carlos had achieved and the band dispersed after four albums over four years. In the mid-’80s, Jorge and Garcia got most of the original band back together and started touring again. The eight-to-ten piece group focused solely on its live shows, which have since included no new songs.
“Fans just want to hear their favorite songs,” Jorge explains. “Three-minute songs easily become seven minute songs during our shows.”
Malo has toured fairly consistently for the past 20 or so years except for a break in the mid-’90s when Jorge collaborated with his brother on his Sacred Fire South American tour and recorded the album Brothers, with Carlos and his nephew Carlos Hernandez.
Jorge has no future plans to collaborate with his elder brother. He wants to focus on touring with Malo and putting together a box set of outtakes from all the recordings he’s done over the years.
“Until things dictate otherwise I will be playing with Malo,” he says. “Today, other than my family, music is the thing I love most in my life.”