Carlos Santana has always been known for blending disparate musical influences into a harmonious whole: rock, blues, Latin, jazz, etc. In great part, it may have been young drumming phenom Michael Shrieve who was responsible for introducing Carlos to the music of cutting edge jazz artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and others.
Considering Shrieve’s history, that’s not surprising. Reputedly one of the youngest performers at Woodstock (Michael was 20 when Santana played their groundbreaking set at the show), he had musical vision and talents far beyond his years.
Paving the percussion path
First, consider that when he joined Santana, there was no blueprint for how a “trap” drummer should fit in with two percussion players (timbalero Jose “Chepito” Areas and conguero Michael Carabello). Shrieve could simply have sat back and played the most basic beats in order not to clash with Areas and Carabello — instead, he introduced a staggering array of complicated, jazz-influenced patterns that not only complemented, but enhanced the syncopated percussion team.
Second, he not only played drums, but also moved into composition and production, notably on Santana’s experimental Caravanserai album, on which he wrote or co-wrote four of the 10 tracks. He also co-produced that album with Carlos — understandable, since he may have had a great deal to do with Carlos’ experimentation in the jazz vein. His production skills appeared on Santana III, Welcome, and Borboletta, as well.
Life beyond Santana
Shrieve recorded more than half a dozen albums with Santana, and was involved in writing many of the songs, too. After leaving the group, he formed Automatic Man with seminal rock guitarist Pat Thrall. Though that band never sold a great deal of albums, they were known for pushing the musical envelope.
He also worked with fellow Santana band-mate Neal Schon in the the short lived supergroup HSAS (vocalist Sammy Hagar, guitarist Schon, bassist Kenny Aaronson, and Shrieve), as well as — later on — the Santana-esque group Abraxas Pool, with Schon, Areas, Carabello, Gregg Rolie, and bassist Alphonso Johnson.
Besides that, Shrieve has collaborated with Roger Hodgson (Supertramp), Andy Summers (The Police), Buckethead (underground guitar hero), and many others. Michael also got into film composing, writing for Paul Mazurskyand David Lynch, among others.
All that jazz
But Shrieve’s true love, jazz, has always played a big part in his life. His current band, Spellbinder, specializes in the Avant-garde, free-floating jazz style that he helped Santana pioneer back in the ’70s.
Beyond playing, writing, and producing music, Shrieve is working on memorializing the legacy of legendary jazz drummer Elvin Jones with a book of Elvin’s memoirs. And Shrieve’s talents extend into even more areas: as the past President of the Pacific Northwest Branch of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS); and musical director for Seattle Theater Group’s “More Music @ The Moore,” a program that highlights gifted young musicians from Seattle’s various cultural groups.
In 1998, Michael Shrieve was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work as a member of Santana, and in 2005, he received the Guitar Center’s first annual “Lifetime Achievement Award.”