At the same time that Carlos Santana was making the fateful move from Tijuana to the musical breeding ground of San Francisco, his younger brother, Jorge, was with the family as well. Although he didn’t start playing guitar until entering the United States, Jorge had a lot of inspiration, not only from his brothers’ cohorts, but from the entire burgeoning music scene in the bay area.
In the late ’60s, after playing in a blues group with some high school friends, Jorge was asked to join a band called the Malibus (named after the laid-back beach community in Los Angeles, California). The Malibus was a nine-piece band, complete with a powerful horn section, and led by lead singer Arcelio Garcia.
The Malibus were popular locally, although Garcia’s mother was not a fan. She was actually responsible for the band’s name change in 1970, to Malo. (During rehearsals, she used to scream “Todos ustedes son malo!” at the band. Loosely translated, it means “all of you are bad!”)
Subsequently, Malo were picked up by Warner Bros. records in 1971, and recorded their first album, the self-titled Malo. This included the band’s Top 20 hit, “Suavecito.” After three more albums, Dos, Evolution, and Ascension, Malo broke up.
During the same period, Santana had been playing with a band called the Fania All Stars, a shifting collection of players that had been formed in 1968 by Johnny Pacheco to highlight leading Latin players. One of the shows Jorge played with the band was at New York’s Yankee Stadium on August 24th, 1973 — a highly publicized show for an audience of over 63,000.
That was the last time that Jorge Santana performed publicly for years. He retreated to his home in the San Francisco bay area and did some serious wood shedding. Jorge released two albums during that period: 1978’s Jorge Santana, and 1979’s It’s All About Love. Among the musicians playing on the albums were members of Malo, including keyboardist Richard Kermode, who had previously played with [Carlos] Santana and co-wrote songs on the Welcome album.
Jorge returned to music when brother Carlos asked him to work with his management company, as director of artist relations. This encompassed production, music clearances, and other responsibilities. In addition, Jorge toured with Santana, and that partnership was immortalized on the 1992 CD Sacred Fire: Live in South America.
Highlight: During the lengthy middle solo on “Guajira,” Jorge blazes the first half, then Carlos takes over for the second half. You can hear the similarity between the brothers’ styles, although each has a unique approach. Jorge’s opening, in which he places an A+ (augmented) chord over the E7 background, is particularly distinctive.
Jorge and Carlos Santana did reunite for another album: 1994’s Santana Brothers, with cousin Carlos Hernandez. Currently, Jorge continues to appear live occasionally with Malo (still led by Arcelio Garcia), a new version of which has been touring for years — often with fellow long-time Latin bands Tierra and El Chicano.