It’s without question that keyboardist Gregg Rolie is a legendary musician and how could you say anything less about a fellow who had an important role in the formation of both Santana and Journey. You would have to be living under a rock to not recognize the juggernaut status of each of those bands. While Gregg has not been involved with either group for decades he has not been sitting idly by and instead tours with his own group playing music that is very reminiscent of his earliest roots. As a matter of fact, in 2001 he would release his third solo album which was entitled “Roots” and delivered a sound that all of his fans knew very, very well. In my own musical life, I have to say that the earliest years of Santana with Gregg are the best ones of them all and nowadays the legendary guitarist seems disconnected with that which made him so awesome to listen to back in the day. His move over to Journey with guitarist Neal Schon was an interesting one and for those fans that are only aware of the Steve Perry years, you should really check out the band in its beginnings since it’s a lot more progressive than you might be aware. I first caught the Gregg Rolie Band at a private media event that I was fortunate enough to be invited to and it was such a blast that I hoped for some area gigs so the wider demographic of fans could enjoy it as well. Thankfully it would not be too long in coming and here we are at the legendary B.B. King Blues Club and Grill. A venue that was absolutely perfect for this kind of event.
Gregg’s would be the only band performing this evening and that meant the show would run exactly on time and finish promptly as well. With this being a Friday night, the venue would be holding a second event in the later evening and lately they have been hosting either Latin or Hip-Hop affairs right after the Rock and Metal shows. At the private event when the band performed Gregg told everyone how this would be the closest sound the original Santana that they would hear and he was absolutely correct. His band is a tour de force of musical prowess and features Kurt Griffey (guitar), Ron Wikso (drums), Adrian Areas (timbales), Alphonso Johnson (bass), Wally Minko (keyboards), and Elliot “Toby” Borrero (congas) in addition to Rolie. One has to imagine that such a roster of players would amount to a very “full” sounding outfit and that my friend is an understatement. The set kicked off with the smooth groove of “Evil Ways” and if you closed your eyes you would think you were experiencing Santana doing it back when the album that bore the same name was released. They would follow with the up tempo and very move inspiring “Jingo” and while this was a seated show you could see everyone was moving in their seats. “Going Home” would be the first presentation from his solo album “Roots” and show that the creativity had not slowed down a bit long after he had moved on from those two groups.
“No One To Depend On” would be the first of about three tunes offered up from the Santana “III” album but we wouldn’t hear those other ones until much later in the night. At this point some folks on the fringes of the tables were getting up and grooving which was cool to see happening. Skipping around a little bit it was pretty cool to see timbale expert Adrian Areas going head to head with drummer Wikso in their duel for “Soul Sacrifice” and continued solos. I’m sure I don’t need to tell the readers that Adrian is the son of legendary Santana timbale player Jose “Chepito” and Wikso himself is a pretty solid player that gets the job done well. Of course all of this kind of stuff would not work at all if there was not a skillful guitarist among their number and we get this in spades with Kurt Griffey. Even though I am not a guitar player and cannot gauge the level of precision in his technique like some others might, I had to say that he was blowing me away with each and every note. If Carlos needs someone to remind him of how he used to boggle the senses he should seek out some clips of Griffey doing his thing. I don’t say this lightly and everyone around me seemed to agree.
I just loved hearing the classic Santana material executed to such a degree and all of my favorites were touched upon. For me as a fan the only three albums that kept me were those first three and of course I was hearing them much later in my life based on my age. These days I feel a disconnect from that band and was happy to be a part of Gregg Rolie’s band as they deliver the goods on these most vital of years. Gregg would talk to the crowd every so often but it was not the point of being boring. It was just small anecdotes about the guys or the particular song. Clearly the music was doing the talking and that was all I wanted from the show tonight anyway. I felt as long as his voice and rich Hammond organ were doing there thing the whole sum of the attendees were in for something special. As expected this would be the case and in all honesty I knew this would happen before walking in having seen the band several months ago. The show moved a little too quickly in my opinion but perhaps it was just how smooth it was flowing that made me feel as though this had happened. There was a very good show of support from the fans but while it was crowded it was not packed to capacity which I had expected. I don’t think enough people were aware of what was going to be happening and that is a shame since they missed out. The rest of us didn’t and among the audience number was guitarist John “The Cat” Gatto who plays with The Good Rats. We reviewed that show back when it took place so take a look for it or click HERE.
If Gregg and the guys come back to B.B. King’s do yourself a favor and make sure that you are a part of it as you will not regret it.
Before I forget; I mentioned that I had seen The Gregg Rolie Band perform at a private function and that was for the 40th Anniversary of the “Woodstock” film. There was a red carpet event that many of the films creative and musical contributors took part in. You can read the entire story by clicking HERE.
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Official Web Site: www.greggrolie.com
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