Devadip Carlos SantanaThe Swing of Delight
Note: For this and other "doing-it-for-money" reviews, db used the pseudonym 'Spottswood Erving,' referencing basketball legend Julius "Dr. J" Erving as well as American civil rights attorney and federal judge, Spottswood William Robinson III, appointed by President Johnson in 1966 to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the first African American so appointed.
The Swing of Delight
by Spottswood Erving
Round, pure, golden, delicious: Santana’s guitar still sounds ripe for the picking, but that’s nothing new. Nor is his affiliation with spiritual father Sri Chimnoy, who contributes the cover painting, the title poem (remember “Birds of Fire”?), and three of the record’s nine tunes. Since Mahavishnu took a secular turn in the mid-’70s, L. Ron Corea and L. Ron Clarke have been our only major jazz (?) artists openly campaigning for a guru, but here comes Devadip to pick up the slack and make Love, Devotion and Surrender safe for the popular jazz of the ’80s.
So he teams up with Herbie Hancock, his first mistake, and Hancock’s producer, David Rubinson, his second. Then he asks along Ron Carter and Tony Williams and Wayne Shorter for a few cuts apiece. Somewhere along the line the decision is made to aspire to the “goal supreme” by means of a digital recording, which means this offering to Chimnoy sounds terrific but costs a lot in the material world, as only 55 minutes is spread over two discs. Producer Rubinson warns the faithful: “In order properly to reproduce the digital recording on disc, we chose to make the album four shorter sides rather than squeezing all the music onto a 2-sided LP.”
It’s a shame the album couldn’t actually be four Shorter sides, since his playing is the most consistent thing on the record and his sculptural “Shere Khan, The Tiger” is the only composition that improves with each listen. Don’t be misled by the album’s lovely title: it doesn’t swing, it pounds and rocks and soars a bit and goes south of the border only once, on “La Liave,” its only vocal. The biggest problem is that the solos, some of which are quite good, are rarely integrated into the total piece; the background comping is dismally pat, the transitions from head-to-solo-to-head are awkward and oblique, and the kinetic tension developed in some of the solos is undermined by blocky arrangements and stoopid, needle-pop-the-balloon fade-outs.
For a record with such talented improvisers, this one has the spontaneity of a planned press conference. We’ll now hear a drum fill by Harvey Mason. Drum fill. Thank you, Mr. Mason. Next up we have a few sweet lines by Ron Carter. Sweet lines. Thank you very much, Mr. Carter. Herbie Hancock will now present some milky Fender Rhodes noodles. Milky noodles. Thank you, Mwandishi. And so on. As for Santana, his playing is pleasant, sometimes inspired as on “Jharna Kala” and “Love Theme from ‘Spartacus,'” but somehow abstracted, out of context, above the music and not in its midst.
Better perhaps if they all had just gone into the studio, let the producer lock the door for five hours, forgotten about the arrangements and synthesizer programming and overdubs, and turned out some music without pretense or program.