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August 29, 2014

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Music :

Impersonator hoping the real Santana will drop by his show

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Leila Navidi

In April, Jozev Castano performed on Fremont Street as Carlos Santana in a full slate of tribute bands. He’s a member of a local association of tribute artists.

If You Go

  • What: “Supernatural Santana, a Trip Through the Hits”
  • When: 8 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday; June 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14; Aug. 26, 27, 29, 30; Sept. 2, 4-6
  • Where: The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel
  • Tickets: $75 to $151; 693-5000

In Today's Sun

Sun Blogs

Carlos Santana begins his residency at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel tonight.

The Sun asked to talk with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer — but was told “anyone in the band but Carlos.”

Maybe it’s best. An interview with Carlos Santana can be a trip. Unlike his melodic, focused guitar solos, his answers are seldom linear — more like cosmic rambling. You wonder if you’re on the same planet.

Here’s his “prepared” statement on his Vegas residency: “Because I still live the principles of the 1960s, and because I’m a hippie at heart, ‘A Trip Through The Hits’ is designed to bring everyone in the audience together as one. I invite you to join our experience. We’ll mix up a little practical spirituality with a rebel-from-the-street vibe, and with lots of incredible music. My wish is for it to be a night that will move you to dance, to cry, to laugh and to feel the totality and fullness of being alive.”

In true Vegas fashion, we turned instead to a Santana tribute artist.

Our faux Santana is Jozev Castano, 54. He started playing Santana’s music when he was in college in San Antonio, came to Las Vegas in 1980 (for a gig at the previous MGM Grand that was canceled by the fire), toured the world and returned to Vegas to perform his tribute act.

What’s a Santana concert like?

It’s in full party mode. The thing is really crazy. They’re like 75 percent women. A lot of women like the music. They don’t sit down. They’re up and dancing. It’s a party environment. After the sounds kick in, it’s “OK, here we go. We’re going on a nice little trip here because you can feel the vibes.” It’s a party atmosphere. Very festive.

Are you really an old hippie?

Yeah. I kind of grew up in that whole age, so I would think so. Trust me, I grew up with the bell-bottoms and incense and love beads.

How spiritual are you?

I was getting into a little bit of that back in my college days. I did some meditation. It wasn’t too deep. I know Santana burned some candles and incense and hummed different vowels to meditate, sat in certain positions, that kind of thing. Things to let your stress out. But as far as getting real deeply involved, I didn’t.

Do you ever tire of playing the hits?

Nah. I will play Santana’s music to the point where you introduce his solo, but from that point I actually play my own feeling. You can’t duplicate everything. You can open up the song with the signature phrases, but then when it’s time to let loose and improvise, part of the song is me.

What’s unique about Santana’s style?

He’s a simple player, not real complicated, real straight ahead. He puts a lot of emphasis and emotion in what he plays. He’ll pick a key and make a real nice melody phrase out of it. The phrasing is so catchy and so simple that people remember it. When you play too much, too many notes, people can’t remember all that stuff. With Santana, it wasn’t complicated. You understood it, musically. You heard the harmonies and the melodies and the different kinds of rhythms.

Even what he writes now, it is not that complicated but it is very, very passionate. Him having the percussion rhythm behind him gives it another feel. As soon as the band starts, he doesn’t have to be playing, and you already feel the vibe, the energy with the percussion and the drums. That’s one of his main things, the percussion. Then when he kicks in with the guitar, end of story. That’s the whole icing on the cake.

How might the real Santana affect your business?

I think it might make it fun. For him to be here several weeks is pretty cool. I’m hoping I’ll make a buzz to where he hears about me and comes to see me. No one in Vegas does Santana except me. I have a feeling if he hears about me he’ll want to come and check it out.

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