One of America's hottest jam bands continues to mine the bottomless repertoire of the Grateful Dead. On their third album, Jazz Is Dead breathes new life into classics that Deadheads haven't ever gotten enough of. The intuition between guitarist Jimmy Herring (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends), bassist Alphonso Johnson (Miles Davis, Weather Report, Billy Cobham, The Other Ones), and keyboardist T Lavitz and drummer Rod Morgenstein of the Dixie Dregs has become more uncanny over the past few years as they have immersed themselves in the Dead's post-psychedelic canon.
Great Sky River was recorded live at the IMAC Theater in Huntington, NY, and it's their most accessible and well-executed disc to date. "China Cat Sunflower is the ideal way to kick off such a set, jumping right into the thump and grind to give the uninitiated something to latch onto. "St. Stephen/The Eleven is appropriately meditative and groovy by turns, and Johnson's solo reconfirms his status as a bass genius. Lavitz runs hell bent for leather through "Blues For Allah , boggling the mind even without controlled substances, and the vibe of "Terrapin Station is right on the money. They venture just deeply enough into "Dark Star to light the fire without totally wearing out one of the Dead's most fatigued sacred cows. Initially, "Morning Dew seems a bit too reserved to close out such a solid set, but the energy builds in the last couple of minutes to finish up on a strong note.
There's not much to quibble about here. The absence of vocals on "Estimated Prophet and "Terrapin Station is a bit unsettling at first, but the band manages to develop the melodic content exceedingly well to cover that gap. The "Drums & Jam segment falls a little short of the usual Dead expectations, if only because the dual force of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann was so hard to live up to. No disrespect meant to Morgenstein, who handles the task as well as possible. This is difficult material to revisit convincingly, even if your name is Lesh or Weir. Jazz Is Dead continues to ensure that the music of Garcia and company doesn't fade into foggy, nostalgic oblivion anytime soon.
Track Listing: China Cat Sunflower; Estimated Prophet; St. Stephen/The Eleven; Drums & Jam; Blues For Allah; Terrapin Station/Dark Star; Terrapin 2; Morning Dew.
Personnel: Jimmy Herring, guitar; Alphonso Johnson, bass and Chapman stick; T Lavitz, keyboards; Rod Morgenstein, drums.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.