Keyboard City

Salvador Santana

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Keyboard City Review

by Thom Jurek

When Salvador Santana issued his debut album in 2008 as SSB -- an acronym for Salvador Santana Band -- it was an eclectic if not particularly memorable recording. On Keyboard City, Santana hooked up with Money Mark to co-write and co-produce the album. There are other musical collaborators, but this is truly a solo album. The tunes are tighter, yet more complex than on his debut. Check “Video Game, Save My Life,” where slippery hip-hop beats, icy keyboards, Money Mark’s guitar, and sine wave generators rub up against rubbery basslines, drums (Santana's own), and Alfredo Ortiz's percussion to create a nocturnal, futurist vibe whose groove won’t quit. On “Under the Sun,” Ortiz and backing vocalist Dawn Bishop help him create a multi-layered, synth driven Latin-flavored pop tune with an airy, funky, Afro-Cuban vibe. It has backbone-slipping beats and a killer synthetic horn chart that sounds utterly natural. On the shimmering club jazz of the title track, Santana mans a vocoder and plays everything except hand percussion. It's a stone killer. The spoken word and gospel groove on “This Day (Belongs to You)” could have been recorded by Build an Ark. Money Mark mans the bass; Joel Harper plays lap steel; and Ortiz adorns it tastefully with his righteous percussion skills. But it’s the backing vocals and ad libs -- courtesy of Bishop and Sherry Pruitt over Santana’s drums and keyboards -- that make it transcendent. A trace of Herbie Hancock's “Rockit” is felt on tracks like “Truth Fears No Questions,” though exotic instruments such as kalimba, didgeridoo, and clarinet are employed giving it a more organic feel, stretching it past that influence. The straight-up funk-fused-with-hip-hop on “Salaboutthemoney” is dancefloor ready. Keyboard City is a vast improvement over its predecessor; it’s still wildly adventurous, but Santana is grounded in his approach to experimentation and more focused on groove consciousness even as musical and sonic ideas assert themselves freely in the mix.

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