1

Electric Hot Tuna at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
Electric Hot Tuna
Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center
Stowe, Vermont
November 22, 2016

Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady deserve to be playing venues such as Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center. Like The Egg in Albany, The Beacon in New York and the Fairfield Theater in Connecticut, this fairly new Stowe Vermont establishment is as well-designed, acoustically-impeccable and all-around comfortable as those venues, perfectly conducive to the mutual warmth in the experience conjured up within its walls on November 22nd.

Yet as plush as the surroundings were, the former guitarist and bassist for Jefferson Airplane, along with drummer Justin Guip, never coasted during the close to three hours they played this wintry night. Quite the contrary, in fact, because, contrary to any element of complacency some of the more casual attendees might've sensed, this electric Hot Tuna lineup brought a revivified air to the familiar two sets of material.

In both acoustic and electric formats (both of which Casady and Kaukonen have presented throughout the past year), Hot Tuna really don't play songs, they make music and there's a distinct difference between those two approaches. Each sequence of songs flowed effortlessly for their duration, evincing an almost imperceptible set of dynamics wherein tunes like Kaukonen's distinctive originals "I Can See the Light" and "Corners without Exits" meshed with outside material like that of blues icon Muddy Waters' "Can't Be Satisfied." The combination of such burnished material furthered the momentum of the musicianship.

And there was an altogether obvious sense of glee both on and off the stage during the course of the show. Whether it was Kaukonen's ongoing comic patter between songs, Casady's own humorous asides (and body language intentional and otherwise) to their mutual admiration of each other's licks, the lighthearted air was a natural outgrowth of the playing, such as the tricky transition on "Good Shepherd," that particular turn furthered by the kind of percussive accents Guip concentrated on all evening. Given the demographic of the audience, aligned with the seventy-plus years of the two main musicians in this band, it's no surprise there was little standing and dancing, but the fairly constant weaving and bobbing of heads in the cozy seats was direct reflection of the players' own generally subdued body language. There were no overt histrionics, no matter how intense the sound the trio conjured up.

And there were more than a few of those riveting moments, most but not all of which occurred with Kaukonen brandishing a Gibson guitar he favored as tool to create feedback and rip into solos and riffs like the one of "Bowlegged Woman Knock Kneed Man." Jorma's s playing is little if any less searing than it was some four decades ago (though his clipped vocal phrasing, as demonstrated on "Feel So Good," is novel) and the same can be said for his friend and playing partner of fifty years: Jack rumbled, roared and rang with his turquoise instrument and not just on the frenetic opening to "Funky #7:" it was possible to follow his bass lines in the mix all evening thanks equally to the sound-man and the room he was working.

The shout of "Hot $%^*ing Tuna" well into the evening represented an outburst of passion in line with the reality of a sold-out crowd in a market Hot Tuna works on a regular basis. Between South Burlington, Vermont's Higher Ground and Lebanon, New Hampshire's Opera House, one configuration or another of Hot Tuna has regularly appeared in this northeast market in recent years and it's a tribute to the loyalty of the band's followers that such regularly tour stops are beneficial all around; this artist-audience relationship is akin to the long-standing friendship, nurtured via infrequent but nonetheless regular get-togethers where the shared experiences of the past lead inevitably, not to mention immediately, to picking right up where the parties involved left off last time.

What's most important in this regard is that Kaukonen and Casady vary their activities just enough, inside and out the Hot Tuna oeuvre, to keep the concept of this band as fresh for themselves as their audience(s). As one excited attendee gushed in the lobby of Spruce Peak post-show, "You knew they were going to play"Water Song" but it was still a surprise!" Numerous such occurrences cropped up during the concert, from "Ode to Billy Dean" all the way to "Bar Room Crystal Ball," each of which stood as testament to the trio's respect for each other as musicians as well as the roots of their music as it inspired them to begin with.

Shop

More Articles

Read The Tom & Jamie Show at the College Street Congregational Church Live Reviews The Tom & Jamie Show at the College Street...
by Doug Collette
Published: March 29, 2017
Read Steve Reich @ 80: Music for 18 Musicians Live Reviews Steve Reich @ 80: Music for 18 Musicians
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: March 29, 2017
Read Ted Ludwig Trio at Little Rock's South on Main Live Reviews Ted Ludwig Trio at Little Rock's South on Main
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Brilliant Corners 2017 Live Reviews Brilliant Corners 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Dwiki Dharmawan's Pasar Klewer Plays Indonesia Live Reviews Dwiki Dharmawan's Pasar Klewer Plays Indonesia
by John Ephland
Published: March 25, 2017
Read "Sari Kessler: Live At The Kitano" Live Reviews Sari Kessler: Live At The Kitano
by Tyran Grillo
Published: May 10, 2016
Read "Kronos Festival 2017" Live Reviews Kronos Festival 2017
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Gregory Porter At The Ulster Hall, Belfast" Live Reviews Gregory Porter At The Ulster Hall, Belfast
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 6, 2016
Read "Kurt Elling With The Keith Ganz Trio at Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Kurt Elling With The Keith Ganz Trio at Jazz Standard
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 2, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!