Santana, McLaughlin open Montreux jazz on high note

By Stephanie Nebehay

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) - Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin performed tunes by John Coltrane, Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin, ushering in the 45th edition of the Montreux jazz festival with a spiritual note from the 1960s and 70s.

The two legendary guitarists kicked off Friday night's concert with "The Life Divine" and closed with "A Love Supreme," both tracks from their 1973 gold album "Love, Devotion and Surrender."

Their acoustic version of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" was a highlight of a nostalgic concert at Montreux, one of Europe's most prestigious summer jazz festivals, which runs until July 16.

"Coltrane, Dylan, Zeppelin -- we grew up with all of them. The next one is a real favorite of mine from the Mahavishnu Orchestra," said McLaughlin, introducing "The Creator has a Master Plan" from his pioneering fusion band.

Santana, dressed head to toe in white, his black curls touching his shoulders, also struck a meditative chord during the gig, which featured mariachis and Latin-influenced percussion.

"John and I have a lot in common, we resonate spiritual feelings and resonate with having fun. It is not just Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu who get to have fun.

"Our highest purpose is to touch your heart. Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, and Dylan, we love all them all and pay tribute and celebrate the supreme spirit of a great drummer, if not the greatest drummer ever, Tony Williams," Santana, 64, told the crowd.

Cindy Blackman, Santana's second wife, joined on drums in a powerful rendition of "Vuelta Abajo," a tribute to the late American jazz drummer Williams who played with Miles Davis and McLaughlin.

"These tunes go back 150 years. Any more old hippies out there?" quipped the silver-haired McLaughlin, now 69. "It was a very special music that we played at that time. Cindy has taken the tradition of Tony Williams and pushed it further."

Santana and McLaughlin sat together front stage without the other nine musicians for two moving duets on acoustic guitars, "Naima," a Coltrane composition also from their "Love, Devotion and Surreder" album, and "Lotus Land."

"At this point in our lives, it is all about perception...So make a conscious choice to make every day the best day of your life," the Mexican-born American Santana said to cheers.

"Downstairs Blues," by Elvin Jones, got the crowd rocking, with Blackman on drums.

For an encore they played "Miles Davis (Black Satin)" and a "Love Supreme," the crowd chanting the lyrics, while Montreux festival founder Claude Nobs jumped in on harmonica.

B.B. King will join the pair on the famed Montreux stage on Sunday night.

"Montreux is known for special meetings of stars," Swiss fan David Pittet said as the lights went on.

(Editing by Michael Roddy)

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