Long-time Santana fans will remember Leon Patillo as that band's lead vocalist and keyboard player during the mid-'70s. He left Santana in 1976 and has since pursued a combined musical career and ministry in the contemporary Christian music field. On Saturday, Patillo will perform at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda with a rather unusual band. "It's a digital band," Patillo explains. "Tom Oppenheim has come out with a system using synthesizers, drum machines and computers. There's a way to merge all of them together and make them back you up just like a regular band, so that's what I'm using."
It's a return to the full sound of the '70s, he says. "Coming out of Santana, it was odd for me, at first, to be playing piano with no backup--that was the first shock. Then when I moved up to the electric grand piano, that was another stage of filling in the sound--every note has a microphone pickup, so you could give a lot of sound for a piano. With this 'band' stuff coming along, I feel like I'm light years from when I first started."
Patillo joined Santana in 1973, and gave his life to Christ in 1974--"that's when I really got into it." He and Carlos Santana had many discussions about faith: "He was into the Buddhist faith, and I was into Christianity, so every time we'd talk about religion, we'd be coming from two different spaces. But we survived and still loved one another; we didn't really see too much of a conflict." Santana plays lead guitar on Patillo's most recent album, "I'll Never Stop Lovin' You," a mixture of gospel, funk, pop and techno-rock styles.
For information on the concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m., call 698-1950.