Grateful Dead fans or “deadheads” who demand only the finest from those who cover Dead tunes or in this case, a complete rendition of the Dead’s classic “Wake Of The Flood” LP should find much to get excited about here. Jazz is Dead, touted as one of the best “jam bands” on the globe have carved out a nifty if somewhat deeply personalized stylization of this – crossroads – LP from those rock icons of year’s past. Laughing Water was recorded live in Boulder, CO and San Francisco during April 1999.
“Jazz is Dead” features an aggregate of fusion, rock and prog-rock stars such as bassist Alphonso Johnson, drummers Rod Morgenstein and Jeff Sipe, keyboardist T. Lavitz and guitarist Jimmy Herring. Surprises include guest appearances from the legendary fiddler Vassar Clements, vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux, guitarist Steve Kimock and Allman Brothers slide guitarist Derek Trucks .....”Jazz Is Dead” presents spirited versions of Keith Godchaux and Robert Hunter’s “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” and the Jerry Garcia-Robert Hunter composition titled, “Row Jimmy”. What have here is a delightful melding of fusion, rock and southern rock thanks to the sinewy phrasing of guitarist Jimmy Herring and angular slide guitar of Derek Trucks.
“Jazz is Dead” also do an effective job of conveying the often affable, easy-going disposition of “The Grateful Dead’s live performances which included flowing dreamscapes of extended soloing and rich thematic development. On Garcia & Hunter’s “Stella Blue” we hear T. Lavitz’ fluent approach to the keyboards as Lavitz’ jazz-blues lead statements work wonders in tandem with Herring’s poignant and well stated thematic development on lead guitar.....The cheerful rendition of the Garcia-Hunter composition titled, “Here Comes Sunshine” spins off into a lively group jam featuring the prominent and sprightly violin work of Vassar Clements. On the gorgeous “Eyes Of The World”, Alphonso Johnson’s fluid extended bass solo counterbalances the main melody over a solid backbeat and a simple chord structure which segues into a dashing jazz motif. The Bob Weir-John Barlow song titled, Weather Report Suite is in two parts here as the band evolve this piece into a fiery fusion style romp atop brash and complex Latin rhythms.
Rod Morgenstein and Jeff Sipe are commendable as they man the drum chairs on alternate tracks; however, “Jazz is Dead” is touring this summer featuring both drummers...which, in fact was a mainstay and trademark of The Grateful Dead...... Fine production, audiophile sound quality, clever arrangements and sagacious ensemble work make Laughing Water a laudable effort. This one should “not” disappoint deadheads and serious minded rockers alike, especially taking into account the somewhat stagnant and uneventful rock scene of the 90’s... Recommended!!! * * * *
Website; www.zebradisc.com & www.jazzisdead.com