Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Aug 93: JGB up north and at home

all stubs courtesy

Here are three JGB shows that are worth a look from the summer of 1993; all are pretty overlooked (afaik), but one of them is one of the best shows of the year.  I have some semi-inchoate thoughts on what it means to listen to Garcia in '93, which can wait for now -- but, in short, I think '93 was a great year for the JGB.  Not consistently great, but the great shows are, for me, some really great examples of late-era Jerry at his best, with an incandescence and thoughtfulness to his playing that's not always there in earlier years when he was ostensibly in "better" shape.  I think anyone with an interest in the full scope of his career owes it to themselves to hear the best of these '93 shows.

For now, though: in August '93, the JGB and the Dead had an unusual piggybacking schedule: the JGB played a weekend in the Pacific northwest on Aug 7-8, then at Shoreline on the 14th, and the Dead played Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Aug 21-22 and Shoreline on Aug 25-27.  Garcia had all of July off, so maybe he was well rested and in relatively good shape.  He also had a new axe to test drive: Blair Jackson's GD Gear book (265) reports that his final guitar, the Cripe "lightning bolt," was debuted at Shoreline this month.  But it looks like Garcia was playing it at the GD Eugene shows, so I assume this means the 8/14 JGB show?  The Cripe’s clean, upper-midrange, almost acoustic-sounding tone was and continues to be controversial among many heads (see this blog, however, for an interesting defense), but for whatever reason, Garcia didn't opt to use this tone for any of these JGB shows, nor any from the fall.

8/22/93 with Cripe, courtesy

8/14/93 Shoreline

Two runs at Shoreline, to start and end the summer, were a GD tradition from 1989-95 (Shoreline in Oct '95 seems to have been the final booked GD show), but the JGB only played there three times, and one of those was covering for the Dead in 1990, who canceled after Brent Mydland's death.  The '92 JGB show was part of a 6-day California tour, but 8/14/93 was a standalone, preceding the Dead's August shows by a week.  Although the ticket stub indicates this show was part of the very un-Jerry sounding "Pepsi Music Festival," maybe an ulterior motive of this gig was to test-drive the new guitar?  Part of me wonders if it actually was debuted the week before (see below), but judging from Garcia's playing tonight, he was definitely having fun putting his new axe through its paces.  Everything is unusually well played, with that extra burst of feeling that puts a knowing grin on your face.  '93 JGB shows sometimes either take a minute to get rolling, or fade a bit on the last lap, but tonight is a strong one from start to finish.  Forever Young is a powerhouse version with some outstanding solo work, as is Like a Road, and Strugglin' Man and Money Honey are firing on all cylinders.  But the real surprise is the closer: Lay Down Sally was a rare choice for a set-closer, and Garcia makes the most of it here.  With all due respect to 11/12/93, this is my favorite JGB performance of this tune: unlike most versions that are content to groove along in 2nd gear, this one has an arc to it that really takes off around @6:20 when Garcia stomps on his wahwah pedal (plus some other effect?) and gets pretty cosmic for the JGB.  Yeah!  The old man's still got it, kids.

The Shining Star singalongs seem to have been, not surprisingly, an east coast phenomenon (based on the tapes anyway), so there's no sea of voices here, but this one is elevated again by some particularly thoughtful, lyrical, and assertive soloing.  Garcia could be inclined to wax rhapsodic on this tune (I believe that the longest ever Garcia guitar solo ever, over 10 minutes, is in one of these 93 Shining Stars), but this one is punchy and focused.  Typical throwaways like You Never Can Tell and Wonderful World sparkle like small jewels, The Maker is a typically strong reading, and then comes the real litmus test.  This Don't Let Go delivers, and then some.  Given that this was the signature JGB "jam tune," it's hard for me not to feel a little let down that most 90's versions don't actually vary all that much, save for how much energy is behind Garcia's attack.  Every once in a while, though, Garcia would push the jam off its well-beaten path into woolier deep space, a place he rarely went with the JGB after 1978.  Tonight's one of those nights: space, noise, and feedback (no new-fangled MIDI bassoons here!).  I am a happy man.  The vocal reprise is skipped as he steers on into a truly titanic Lucky Old Sun; what distinguishes one version from the other, for me, is usually the quality of his vocals, but tonight he leans into those solos a little harder than usual and the effect is tremendous.  Midnight Moonlight is what it is, but coming at the end of all that, it's more of a celebratory stomp than a "drink up and go home, folks" last call.

The aud tape is a fine pull by Larry Gindoff, the only source in circulation and a great listen.  I don't know why this show doesn't seem to have gathered the accolades of other great shows of this period, but, imho, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

8/7 Seattle, 8/8 Portland

Neither of these shows hits me like Shoreline does, but they are not without their own highlights.  Given that the JGB hadn't been to the northwest since 1984 and that the Dead's planned 20th-anniversary-of-Veneta shows the year before had been canceled because of Garcia's health scare, I can imagine that the general mood at these two open air afternoon shows must have been as festive as could be.  A dance party with the Jerry Garcia Band!?  Well shucks.

Seattle is strong all around and Garcia sounds like he's in good spirits.  He even introduces the band!  A rare first set Maker is fantastic, Like a Road is another stunning version, and Lay Down Sally is an above-average chooglin' version, but not in the same league as Shoreline.  Shining Star, like Shoreline's, is a really commanding version that belts it out, and Garcia sounds like he's pushing himself on Don't Let Go tonight; there's no spacey digression or anything too out of the ordinary, but it's satisfying nevertheless!  Overall not an outstanding night, but a very good show.

Portland, however, has higher highs and lower lows (in the vocal dept, anyway).  Unusually for the JGB, Garcia is noodling extra hard tonight between songs, lots of futzing and adjusting, which makes me wonder if maybe the new guitar was actually being roadtested tonight.  His playing is really energized, but his voice is in noticeably worse shape than the night before, and it continues to deteriorate throughout.  The first set is excellent.  A totally in-the-groove Cats-Mission opener and some extra soloing in TWLWMYD all bode well, but check out the second solo in Stoned Me and the first solo in The Maker!  So good.  But the usual penultimate Sisters & Brothers ushers in... the end of the set.  Hmm.  The second set sounds like Garcia's spirit was still willing, but the flesh was crapping out: things seem a little shorter than usual, and his voice remains ragged and worn.  TWYDTTYD sports a particularly fine jam (sidenote: '93 versions of this song deserve a separate post), and then things settle into a fun but unremarkable groove until rallying at the end for a powerhouse Dixie Down and a very nice Tangled.  Not a top tier '93 show, but a satisfying complement to the Shoreline show, and the highlights would make for an excellent 'bonus disc' to Shoreline's official release (I'm not holding my breath).  Kudos, too, to Mark Severson who pulled off an excellent recording with some extra flavor between songs courtesy of his buddies, who all seem to be having a fine time.

At some point, it would be fun to do an overview of the fall '93 tour, but who knows when that will happen.  There is one lesser-known show, however, that tops 8/14 Shoreline as my personal favorite, and deserves a post's worth of ravings...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

10/3/80: sing along if you know this one

Going through all the Oct 80 acoustic/electric shows is not a project I will undertake, but I do occasionally enjoy dipping in to see what might be hiding in there.  As they start Ripple, Jerry announces "you can sing along with this one if you'd like," and Bob adds, "Jerry wrote this one for his mom."  Ok!  Not things I'd expect from either of them, but there you go.  During the final round of da-da-dada's, someone onstage (one of the drummers?) hollers "sing!" and Bob retorts, "sing, don't howl."  On this aud, however, it doesn't sound like a lot of the crowd took them up on the offer.  C'mon, deadheads!  How many times did Jerry invite you to sing along?  Sheesh.

Otherwise, it's the usual straightforward acoustic set.  Phil seems unusually present in the mix (On the Road Again!), and I always forget what an interesting anomaly these instrumental performances of Heaven Help the Fool were (sans rhythm section).  The only other real noteworthy point, however, is when Mickey can be heard during the lull before Bird Song offering to sing Fire On the Mountain.  Another opportunity lost, I suppose. 

Onto the electric sets.  Excelsior.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

11/12/93: David Murray's blues

by Joe Ryan, via GDAO
This started out as a comment to JGMF's write-up of this show, but it ballooned into a full post's worth of ramblings (lucky you!).  The JGB show on 11/12/93 at Madison Square Garden featuring jazz great David Murray is a popular (or at least very well-known) show, but, while it's historically significant, I don't think it's mostly very good.  While his first time with the Dead two months earlier was outstanding (the Bird Song! the Estimated!) and his 1995 return isn't bad either, this JGB show is redeemed by one out-of-left-field standout performance that belongs on a list of highlights from the year.  Otherwise, this show overshadows some much better but lesser-known performances from '93 while prompting the question of what exactly was going on.

From the start, Murray is playing a lot of saxophone.  A lot.  During Garcia's vocals, during Garcia's solos, just all over the place.  To my ears, How Sweet It Is is a near-trainwreck and Strugglin' Man is the low point, with an unbelievable amount of crossed wires.  What the hell was going on?  Could they hear each other?  TLEO, Forever Young, and Money Honey at least start to get their ducks in a row, but Murray's playing is way over on the abstract side of things and, while the audience cheers every one of his big screaming high-note climaxes, the effect is almost surreal.  But, after strangely starting and stopping Everybody Needs Somebody (the only time I can recall hearing him do that), Garcia cranks up Lay Down Sally and the whole room lifts off -- Murray gets his blows in first, but clears the way for Garcia to take the jam way further than usual.  This is one of the most exciting performances of this tune, and definitely one of the longest.  Um, okay then!  Read into it what you will, but it's a pretty sweet note to end on after a sour first set.  I don't get any sense, however, that Murray "cut Garcia to shreds" (see below) or that Garcia was responding competitively -- rather, it's more like Murray either couldn't hear him for most of the set, or was just going for it without much care, and Garcia kind of shrugged his shoulders and let it roll, before finally belting it out at the very end.  But of course I have no idea what was going on.

The second set is better overall, but at times it's in more of a relieved okay, things finally are starting to go right kind of way.  Depending on your tolerance for Murray's style, Shining Star is or is not kind of a mess, but there's an interesting moment when Murray's solo gets increasingly hairy and Garcia jumps in with some flurrying, high energy stuff to complement what he's doing (this starts around @7:45).  It's a neat moment where Garcia seems to be trying to make something out of a situation that has gone off into uncharted waters, but it's also one of the only moments they seem to actually be engaging with each other.  Maybe Garcia was just out of sorts: his vocals sound completely out of synch with the band on You Never Can Tell, not the first time that night he flubbed his singing, and I wonder if he wasn't also having a bit of an off-night, regardless of Murray's presence.  Murray sits out for The Maker, which provides a bit of a breath of fresh air, although it's not a particularly strong version on its own merits (they were really nailing this tune on this tour).  And then comes the moment that should have attained some real lift-off, Don't Let Go.  Modal vamps!  Open-ended spacey jamming!  Jaaazz!  Murray gets out his bass clarinet and things are sounding pretty sweet.  Garcia hoots and hollers the final round of "hold me tight and don't let go's" and hits on his wahwah pedal right out of the gate.  The stars are aligning!  But... I dunno, it's a fine jam, but Garcia and Murray seem to just play through each other rather than with each other.  Again, I'm wondering more about the sound onstage and whether they weren't able to hook it up for more mundane reasons.  Murray drops out for a minute to switch back to his tenor sax, but Garcia skips the chance to go off into deep space and returns to the vocals instead, and I can't help thinking it was a missed opportunity all around.  Rats.  Fortunately, someone seems to have finally tapped Murray on the shoulder, because his contribution to That Lucky Old Sun is much more fitting, and he actually keeps it relatively within the lines and even plays some suitable horn riffs in the closing Tangled Up in Blue.  Garcia, again, delivers the goods at the last minute, belting out a powerful final Tangled jam that builds to a solid fanning climax that I'm sure left everyone smiling after a pretty perplexing show.

JGMF quotes Gary Lambert in his piece, who relays that no one from Garcia's camp actually told Murray what kind of music the JGB played or what the expectations were.  I can certainly believe it, but I give Murray a lot more credit than that: musicians sit in with other musicians without much advance preparation all the time, and good musicians adjust on the fly -- especially good jazz musicians, who (should) have the ears to pick up on song forms and harmonic patterns relatively quickly and improvise over them.  I don't doubt for a second that David Murray is such a musician.  Jim Powell says Murray cut Garcia to shreds that night, but I don't think so.  Murray plays and plays and plays and, well, he overplays, and imho very little of it sounds "better" than Garcia or even on the same page.  To be fair, Murray seems like he's mixed low for much of the night -- to give soundman John Cutler the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure it was a struggle working with Murray's wider dynamic range (on an acoustic instrument, in a basketball arena) and maybe Murray didn't have much monitor support... but it's also possible that Cutler was mixing him down for other reasons.  I don't know if he had played with singers or pop musicians like Branford Marsalis did, but it seems weird to me that a musician of Murray's stature and experience wouldn't have eased off the gas a bit (see this interview, particularly comment #5, for a number of things Marsalis did that Murray doesn't seem to do).  I don't think that's because no one bothered to tell him that the JGB were essentially an rhythm & blues band.

And, lest you think I'm just not a fan of David Murray: while I can't say I've heard a lot of his work, I have several albums of his that I think are incredible (1980's Ming would be the starter) and I very much like his 1997 Dark Star album.  If you're not familiar with him outside of the Dead, Murray is one of the major jazz saxophonists of the 80's/90's, and was part of a generation of post-loft NYC avant-gardists who made the innovations of Albert Ayler and Coltrane coexist with "the tradition" that so much of the post-Coltrane players had rejected.  Like a lot of those musicians (Henry Threadgill and Arthur Blythe are two contemporaries you may know), Murray was certainly known for a particular sound but could play in a variety of styles very effectively.  To give two then-contemporary examples to consider alongside his JGB performance, try Shakill's Warrior (1991),  a "back to the roots" project revisiting the organ/tenor combos of the 50's-60's [interestingly, this band's guitarist, Stan Franks, was originally slated to play lead guitar in the original 1998 lineup of the Other Ones, but was replaced by Mark Karan and Steve Kimock].  Or try Murray's guest appearance on the Skatalites' recording of his own tune Flowers for Albert (1994; Murray takes the first solo). Neither of these are necessarily representative, but I think they show that Murray could have found something to fit the JGB's sound.  If he wanted to boot it out like Jr. Walker on How Sweet It Is, I am confident that he could have gone there while still sounding like David Murray.

Coming soon: some of the aforementioned much better but lesser-known performances from 1993.

by Joe Ryan, via GDAO

postscript: Murray's spot with the Dead on 9/22/93 was fantastic, but when the Dead came back to the NYC area in 1994, Murray did not appear with them.  While the Dead were at Nassau Coliseum in March 1994, Murray instead sat in with a Dead cover band, the Zen Tricksters, at the good ol' Wetlands Preserve in lower Manhattan (basically a funny-shaped bar down by the Holland Tunnel, if you never went there) for a full 3+ hour show.  It's hard not to wonder what Murray thought about that, but I don't remember anything being wrong with the music at all.  I had the tapes way back when, and I liked them a lot -- but that was over 20 years ago, so I withhold judgment until they appear digitally at LMA.  I would love to hear that again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

5/8/84: light thickens further in Eugene

In observation of the day, I happily biked home from work for the first this year (it's been a long winter) with 5/8/77 in my headphones, the first time I'd listened to it since, um, last year this time.  I am pleased to report that my commute-by-bike lasts exactly the length of Dancin' in the Streets and Scarlet>Fire.

In the mood for more once I got home, I queued up an older fav that I hadn't heard in even longer: 5/8/84, a show that is emblematic of a shaggy year that has both its fevered supporters and its bemused naysayers.  Much like 1976, there's a lot about 1984 to not like, but hey, if some serious mojo has to come with some serious warts, then so be it.  Garcia's drug abuse and health were the steadily growing elephants in the room, but if you look past the damage he was doing to himself and those around him (and I understand if you can't or won't), there is both a raw ugly beauty and a feverish intensity to the year that I find to be very powerful and exciting indeed.  It's not the effortless grace and execution that the band displayed at their 70's pinnacles; it doesn't even sound like they're necessarily having very much fun -- it's more like a "we've got nothing to lose here" wild-eyed abandon that sometimes fails to hit the mark, but other times hits the bullseye dead-on before shredding through the target.  This show isn't quite an exemplar of this dark mixture at its finest, but it does have one very nice, deep zone right in the middle of it that's about as far from Barton Hall as it gets but delights me all the same.

courtesy deadlists

I remember this whole show being a bit up and down, with Garcia sounding like he was in rough shape.  A week after their east coast spring tour, the band jetted up to Oregon for three shows at the Hult Center's small Silva Concert Hall (capacity 2448) in Eugene, produced by the good ol' Springfield Creamery folks (I swear this is a coincidence! inspiration move me blindly?).  The reunion must have been colored, sadly, by the death of Ken Kesey's 20-year-old son Jed in a car accident 4 1/2 months earlier.  Years later when Kesey eulogized Bill Graham during the Dead's final Halloween show in 1991, he mentioned that Graham had given money for a memorial to his son and that the Dead marked the occasion with Brokedown Palace, which would be this show.

The novelty of the Scarlet>Touch of Grey opener notwithstanding, the first sign of something unusual may be up comes after a stately, relaxed Terrapin that is followed by two minutes of Garcia jamming quietly with the drummers (in reverse of the then common practice of Garcia leaving early as various bandmembers jammed in his wake before Drums proper).  It gives way to a lush marimba-led jam, a standard '84 move where the drummers eschewed the typical percussion bombast for something more warm and considered.  Midway through, electronic effects and delay enter the soundfield, but then things seem to slow to a halt.  Rather than a pause for the guitarists' return, however, various Merry Pranksters emerge to wheel out the Thunder Machine (see also 12/31/78) and then the weirdness really begins.  This kind of Dead music is so far out on the thinnest of musical ice that most heads don't bother with it at all, but it is something to be treasured all the same: the closest point of comparison I can think of would be avant-garde "jazz" of the AACM and Art Ensemble of Chicago, or Japanese experimental bands like the Taj Mahal Travelers.  After a few minutes of this garage sale of odd percussive sounds, Garcia and Weir join the fray and the jungle path thickens and gets denser ("light thickens and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood," perhaps): animals cries, disembodied snatches of speech (Ken Babbs maybe? Kesey himself?), industrial scrapes and crashes, general confusion all around, which then seems to be sucked into a vortex of processed effects to become weirder still.  A little mini Acid Test for some dark times?  After the machine rolls on, Garcia, Weir and, eventually, Lesh, play a solemn, slow march through the haze.  Things take a turn towards the Other One, and they toy with the theme for a while, soaking everything in delicious delay, building intensity steadily and thickening the roux until Phil unleases his roll and Garcia slams into a nasty minor chord.  Some grimy stuff in here!  The ensuing ride feels more akin to the hot and relentless 1970 style Other Ones than the more exploratory 1971-73 era trips.

The rest of the set is a fine listen, but nothing nearly as demented.  It's nothing worth skipping, though.  They follow up with a fine Wharf Rat, then an I Need a Miracle that seems to catch Garcia off-guard, and finally a fine Morning Dew that may be an opaque tribute to Jed Kesey -- it sure as heck ain't in the same ballpark as 1977's vintage, but it's fine for what it is.  Bobby thanks the Pranksters before the encore, a rare twofer of Sugar Magnolia with a jam that's preempted by Brokedown Palace, again in tribute to the younger Kesey.

PS.  If you're so inclined, there's a video of this show, shared by the always reliable voodoonola... but it axes the whole post-Terrapin>drums>space>Other One segment!!  what the heck?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

3/3/76: I could wait forever / I've got time


This show first popped on my radar a while back when I was thinking about Garcia playing outdoors sans GD, but I only just got around to giving it a close listen.  A couple things:

First: good gravy, this is a really nice aud tape!  The whole terroir thing is happening in a serious way here.  One of the gold standards for this period, in terms of sound quality, is the well known 3/6/76 recording made by Pat Lee & friends at Seattle's Moore Theater, but Don Wolfe and Matt Williams' 3/3 tape may be an even more satisfying listen in terms of atmosphere.  The Lane County Fairgrounds Auditorium is more like a big vaulted shed holding around 800ish, and while the tapers succeeded in capturing the intimacy of the space, this is one of those tapes that still inspires a cognitive dissonance between what you know and what you're hearing: to me, this sounds like I'm experiencing the JGB at a house party or maybe a small bar, in the company of a few friends, all very enthusiastic and very attentive.  One great moment of many is when Donna steps up to sing her gospel feature, "A Strange Man," which was brand new to most of the crowd.  They love it, and she has them in the palm of her hand: maybe one of the better Donna vocal moments from this era of the JGB, made all the more sweet by the particularities of this great tape.

Second: in terms of performance, this is a pretty solid early '76 JGB show.  Granted, that's a period that tends to rub many folks the wrong way because of the slowness of the material.  At times I agree (3/6/76, I'm looking at you), but typically I can get down with this stuff just fine.  All we have of this night is the second set, but it's still a satisfying 90 minutes of music. An early "The Way You Do the Things You Do" has a delightful energy to it, and dig how Keith and Jerry slip in a subtle hint of I-VII for a sec in the jam (the "Fire on the Mountain jam" or Eb-Db in this case).  "Friend of the Devil" is divine; "I'll Take a Melody" and "Mystery Train" are satisfying, but not standouts for the period, and the Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile" is done about as well as they did it -- I don't mean to sound back-handed, but it's a tough song to pull off!  Much better, however, is this great version of "I Want to Tell You," which they played only a handful of times in early '76 and then dropped abruptly.  Garcia returned to it for a few post-coma shows in 1986-87, then brought it back with the Dead in 1994-95, but these 1976 versions are the real deal, with solid vocals, energetic delivery, and a few minutes of jamming that finds a nice little space to nestle into (more I-VII/"FOTM" again, somewhat similar to the jam in "Lonesome & A Long Way From Home").  The segue into "Sisters and Brothers" is sweetly done and makes for a nice little combo.  A final rarity closes the show, their take on Ray Charles' "Talkin' 'Bout You," not quite as hot as some of the Legion of Mary versions, but par for this lineup.

Finally, if you read the not-so-fine print on the poster, you may notice that the show was put on by Acidophilus Productions/Springfield Creamery, which may ring a bell for any committed deadhead.  Garcia's connections to and performance history in Oregon probably warrant a small book of their own, and the Creamery folks also produced the "Second Decadenal Field Trip" [and potluck!] on the 10th anniversary of their first one (see Blair Jackson), the 1983 and 1984 Hult Center shows (in Eugene), and maybe more.   Unlike the more storied fairgrounds that are a few miles down the road in Veneta, the Lane County Fairgrounds are, I believe, in the middle of downtown Eugene, so this could hardly have been a psychedelic backwoods tribal stomp.  From a pragmatic standpoint, this show may have been just a midweek add-on to two bigger gigs (a Friday in Portland and a Saturday in Seattle), which wasn't unheard of.  There's an Old & In the Way listing for 5/8/73 at Churchill High School (Eugene) and Garcia/Kahn shows at South Eugene High School in June '82 (JGMF), all of which were adjacent to larger gigs in Portland.  Other Dead/Garcia trips to the northwest seem to have been either bigger "professional" productions or college gigs (besides those Hult Center shows), and I have no idea what other events, if any, were organized under the Creamery's auspices.  But I suspect that there must be some story behind Garcia's playing for the Springfield Creamery on a Wednesday night in downtown Eugene, and I'd love to know what it is.

8/28/82: bring a dish to pass (acidophilus not required).  courtesy deadlists.

And the biggest question, of course, is... was this guy was in attendance?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Oct 68: Hartbeats run-down

[edit: blogger trashed the formatting of this, so I had to clean it up -- sorry if you tried reading all this and gave up!]

Special thanks to Light Into Ashes for his feedback and corrections to this.

3/3/68: I think... I need... a... side project!

"Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats" is often writ large as an Event in early Grateful Dead history, despite being only a couple of small gigs on a handful of weeknights in October 1968, in the middle of the very brief period when Bob Weir and Pigpen were, sort of, "fired."  The nature of these gigs has been interpreted in a couple of different ways since then.  The "official" version probably originates with McNally's biography:
On October 8, Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats -- Hart, Kreutzmann, Garcia, and Lesh -- began a three-night run at the Matrix... It was satisfying, and the Hartbeats gigs would continue throughout the fall of 1968, but it was musically inchoate and never did find a center.

Hart repeated the basic story in an interview from 2000:
Well, it was sort of weird. I think Jerry was fighting with Bob, and Pigpen did something…I can’t remember what it was. You know, everybody fights. I think Bob and Pig were on the short list at that time, so I believe it was me and Kreutzmann and Jerry and Phil. Elvin Bishop sat in. We just wanted to play instrumental music; we didn’t want to play Grateful Dead music. We went to The Matrix. They were putting us up on the marquee -- they asked, “What’s the name of the band?” and Jerry said, “Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats.” That was how that was born. We just played instrumental music. I remember vividly that it was a coffee shop, only like 15 feet to the wall. We played facing the wall -- and it was long. These poor bastards sitting there drinking cappuccino had no idea what was about to hit them. [laughs] Jerry had his twin [sic; his Fender Twin amp], and we were playing like maniacs. ( via Wayback Machine)

In his book, Phil Lesh describes the Hartbeats with regret, as a kind detour that was fortunately avoided:
Mickey formed a side group (Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats) to play the kind of free-rave stuff we were trying to develop. I felt confused and depressed by what had happened at the meeting [the "firing"], and I only came out a couple of times to play with the Hartbeats. That depressed me even further: the music didn't feel right to me. I especially missed Pigpen's warmth and organic greasiness.  Eventually realizing our mistake, and thankful that we hadn't yet burned our bridges behind us, we quietly left the Hartbeats behind.  (Searching for the Sound)

It's hard for me to shake the suspicion that a little unintentional revisionism isn't happening, or at least a discrepancy between intention and performance.  The whole "Bob and Pigpen were fired" sequence of events is interesting for what it reveals about the band's (well, Garcia's and Lesh's) ambitions and frustrations, but musically it always felt like a non-event to me.  Anyone who has been in a band can probably attest to some similar kind of friction at some point ("everybody fights") but this particular friction just happens to have been recorded for posterity and repeated often enough to give it the historical weight of a milestone.  The actual recorded evidence doesn't suggest that much was amiss: it's hard to think that anyone would say that the music from earlier that year was lacking in any way, period, let alone due to Weir or Pigpen; the three "proper" Dead shows from October are among the best of the year; and regardless of what Hart or Lesh says, these Hartbeats tapes have a lot of Grateful Dead music on them.  

I always assumed that the Hartbeats moniker was more of an in-joke than an actual band or "side project" or any real kind of departure from the path.  In the Taper's Compendium, Matrix owner Peter Abram recalls that the Hartbeats shows came together on very short notice: "It would have been called Grateful Dead Jam or something like that, but Chet Helms got freaked out because he was having them at the Family Dog event the following weekend [at the Avalon Ballroom on Oct 12-13] and he insisted that they not play," hence the name change (13).  In their more recent oral history, This is All a Dream We Dreamed (2015), Jackson & Gans don't make as much of it as McNally or Lesh do: in discussing the "firing," they note "there were no Grateful Dead gigs without Weir and Pigpen, though the others did play a few loose jam session shows at the Matrix as Mickey and the Hartbeats" (118).  And on JGMF's list of Matrix tapes ("I think this is the batch held by Joe Buchwald"), these 10/8, 10/10, 10/30 tapes are each labeled "Dead jam."

Interestingly, however, despite Garcia announcing on the first that "this band is called Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats," the gigs were actually billed as "Jerry Garrceeah (Garcia) and his Friends" [sic].  Despite Garcia's famous refusal to assert any formal leadership over the band, it seems noteworthy that a "Grateful Dead Jam" that was organized "to play the kind of free-rave stuff" that he was pushing the band to develop further (and Weir and Pigpen were, to some extent, less amenable to) did initially bare his name at the door.

The Matrix, Oct 8-27.  courtesy jgmf

Another thing worth considering is Elvin Bishop's presence.  He didn't just drop by to jam: his band was on the bill and it wasn't just any old gig.  Bishop had just left the Butterfield Blues Band and gone solo and, as far as I can tell, these Matrix gigs may have been (or were intended to have been) his new group's debut -- I haven't seen any listings for Bishop's band earlier than this, and he seems to have become a fixture at local Bay Area clubs immediately after. (Although, interestingly, the 5/21/68 Carousel jam tape begins with a long stretch of Garcia and others jamming and ends with a few Bishop-led blues numbers).  Holding a freeform Grateful Dead Jam on the same night as the debut of a local up-and-coming guitar hero's new solo band seems like an unusual double bill: I wonder if the "Hartbeats" were doing this partially to offer support to Bishop as he broke in his new group?  It turned out to be a good thing they were there, since Bishop's group evidently wasn't ready to play on the first night: "my band was supposed to be playing here tonight, but we had a little trouble and one of the members of the rhythm section couldn't make it, so we're just gonna sort of be jamming... within a couple of weeks we hope to have the whole thing together and it's really gonna be nice.  As for this jam session, no promises."  Again, this sounds about as casual as can be, but it must have been planned enough in advance for there to be a poster advertising both Bishop and Garcia (Bishop is billed through 10/12, with another band Marvel Farm booked for the last two dates).

Elvin Bishop, 1969, courtesy discogs

So, now, for a little music.  What follows is a cleaned-up version of my listening notes, but I was surprised that a bit of it contradicted or corrected information that I had seen about these recordings over the years.  I don't know if this stuff is news to anyone else, so I'm not claiming that this is any major revision to the general record.

the lineup: Garcia, Lesh, Hart, and Kreutzmann.  Elvin Bishop leads an impromptu grouping on 10/8 that does not include Garcia, Lesh, or Kruetzmann(?).  Bishop also sits in with the core four (ha!) on 10/30.  A harmonica player and singer identified as Marvin (Gardens?) sits in on 10/10.  Jack Casady performs with Elvin Bishop on 10/8, but it's questionable if he actually plays on any Dead material -- nearly all the info about these shows that I've seen claims that he does, but I mostly disagree; see below.

the "jam" label: I think this is an overused and often unhelpful way to label this music.  So I use it here to mean a piece of music that either contains recognizable elements of a song but appears to be primarily improvised and wanders atypically far from its structure, or a piece that appears primarily improvised and unconnected to any other known song structure.  Grateful Dead tunes that are played here similar to how the Dead played them but without vocals will be labeled "instrumental." 

correct song order: The question has been raised about whether or not these tapes are in the right running order.  I am confident that no material is duplicated across these three sets of tapes (which was in question in one of the 10/30/68 filesets), but I'm not going there w/r/t correct running order or what belongs to what date.  I suspect that some stuff may be missing, and, as I understand it, Peter Abram's documentation of his master recordings was not always very accurate.  C'est la vie.

And, finally, before you plunge in, here is some actual film footage of the Matrix ca 1967 -- though unfortunately not of the Dead -- to help get you in the right state of mind (courtesy jgmf).

whole show:
(alternate disc 1:
(There is also a GEMS transfer, not at LMA, that is mixed down to mono.)

Clementine jam ("The Six")
It is delightful that the first sounds on these tapes are Garcia calling for Betty Cantor, who's voice is (barely) heard chatting with him about something.  "Yoohoo, Betty!"  Are there other instances of her voice on a Dead tape?  This first jam begins tentatively, is preempted by an amp problem, then restarts: this one is mainly a jam on the two-chord Clementine vamp that they had been working with, but includes a middle section based on a different chord progression, with Lesh's Coltrane-derived bassline making some isolated appearances.  It sounds very much to me like an earlier version of the tune they play on 10/30 that Lesh calls "The Six" (the whole thing is 6/8).  To me this is more interesting than genuinely moving, but it's still quite pleasant (though way better on 10/30).  [See Light Into Ashes on the state of Clementine in mid/late '68].  Then Garcia hits the gas in the last couple of minutes and moves things right along into...

-> The Eleven (instrumental) -> Death Don't Have No Mercy
I'm blissing out here: the full force of the Dead is missing, obviously (as are the vocals), but this Eleven is pretty hot in spots.  Garcia does take the vocal on the first Death Don't, which is played on each of these tapes.  While it inevitably suffers some in comparison with full-blown Dead versions, the sparseness of these renditions is wonderful and, to me, powerful.

Garcia informs the audience, not for the last time, that they shouldn't be impressed by any of this.  "This is, uh, experimental.  This business of us playing, this format, is largely experimental, so, uh, be warned.  Also, you can feel free to harangue us."  One could make a few things of these repeated disclaimers, but I will resist for now. 

The Seven
The first known rendition of this little-played theme?  This, frankly, sounds like a rehearsal: the drummers start playing a pattern, Garcia and Lesh join in playing along in 7 for while, and at 3:30 they begin the actual "Seven" theme over and over with little variation or improvisation.  Were they not comfortable enough to solo over it?  That's surprising, given how developed the Eleven was by this point, but that's what it feels like here -- compare it to the full-blown rocket-fuelled version that the Dead played on 9/29/69 where Garcia really cuts loose.  It falls apart at the end and stops pretty abruptly.  Garcia again halts any applause, but quizzes the crowd on the time signature: "Is there anybody who was able to count that? Anybody know what time it was in?"  Somebody does.

Dark Star (instrumental)
Light and crisp, but totally involving and very enjoyable.  Garcia plays the verse melody instrumentally.  Neither drummer gets on a drumkit until almost 10 min in.  The outro melody segues into

-> Cosmic Charlie
The earliest version of this, played briskly.  Garcia sings the lyrics.  There's no bass here at all (unless it's a tape mix issue?).  Did Lesh not know the song yet?  Numerous sources report that the Dead struggled with this song during the Aoxomoxoa sessions the month before, and they didn't play it live until Jan 1969.

“Next Time You See Me” (blues shuffle in A, instrumental)
 A 12-bar blues riff in A, which they played again on 10/10 and is similar in form to "Next Time You See Me" (or "Schoolgirl"), but that seems to be about the only connection.  It's not very exciting, imho.  Garcia gets in some nice licks, but this is pretty loose and it sounds like more of a workout for the drummers and Lesh than for Garcia.  The last few minutes, however, abandon the blues form for a nice back-and-forth exchange between Garcia and Lesh, which is pretty cool.  The tape fades as it's ending, so there's not really a segue into the next jam. 

Jam 1
Kind of an Em-A7 vamp, with a similar feel to Dark Star, but definitely not the same thing.  Very nice indeed.  There's a dark, moody ending, then they kind of vaguely noodle in this same vein and then quietly shift to

The Other One (instrumental)
Quietly comes up out of silence.  Pretty standard O1 jamming, then after 9 min they shift gears into a quieter, more melodic kind of thing.  By 11:30 they're screwing around with string scrapings and volume knobs.  Little tape dropout at 12:14? It doesn't sound like anything's missing

-> Jam 2 /(cuts) 
This emerges out of the spacey haze.  The bass here is heavier and feels more prominent -- I am feeling confident that everything up to this point has been Phillip Chapman Lesh, but I wonder if this is now Jack Casady instead?  It could have been possible to hand off the bass during the spacey jam after the Other One.  Anyway, the bass plays a simple, clear bassline in E(?) and Garcia picks up on it, zipping around. I like this.  He loses steam after a few min and gloms onto the theme while the bassist goes off.  Unfortunately, This cuts off in mid flight.

The tape cuts back into to applause and tuning.  Garcia: “Is Elvin here?  Elvin here? Got his whole scene here?  Too much.  We're gonna let Elvin play.  This guy who's been playing the bass here is Jack Casady, if you're wondering.  This band is called Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats."   Hmm.  Understandably, one might assume that Jack Casady had been playing the bass for some time now, but my ears tell me otherwise.   Maybe it was him on the preceding Jam?  Maybe there's some stuff missing thanks to that cut?  Maybe these reels are out of order?  But I am feeling very certain that Lesh has been on the majority, if not all, of this tape so far.  Anyway, Bishop takes the mic: "Equipment folks, where can I plug my amplifier in?  Hello, my name's Elvin Bishop and my band was supposed to be playing here tonight, but we had a little trouble and one of the members of the rhythm section couldn't make it, so we're just gonna sort of be jamming, but, um, in the future, like I have three chicks singing with the band, they can really sing, they're from Boston, they sing like angels and they're beautiful, so within a couple of weeks we hope to have the whole thing together and it's really gonna be nice.  As for this jam session, no promises."

"Jam, Jam, Jam" = 3 blues instrumentals
Bishop & co. blaze through three shorter blues instrumentals, all with simple but clear heads and arrangements -- I'm sure these are actual songs, but at this point I can't muster the energy to go figure out what they are.  I hear Bishop, Casady, and one drummer, who I suspect may be John Chambers, the drummer from Elvin's band of this period and who also appears on the later 12/24/68 Matrix jam with Harvey Mandel, Garcia, and Bishop (though there's apparently a different drummer named Joe Chambers who also played at these Matrix jams; so who knows?).  But maybe it's Kruetzmann, or someone else entirely.

After the third tune, Bishop calls for Hart: "Is there anyone in this audience -- I understand there's a certain drummer who might be interested in coming up and playing after this number... Mickey? Want to do a few numbers after this one?"

Prisoner of Love
Mislabeled "Prisoner Blues" (or "Baby Please Come Back to Me" on 10/30), this is a Percy Mayfield song that Bishop later recorded for his group's first album.  He sings the vocal, and invites Hart up when they're done: “Thank you very much! Mickey? A little jamming?”

Jam 3
Bishop, Casady, and what sounds like two drummers at first, but the drummer in the left channel seems to vanish after a couple of minutes.  Casady solos after about 6 min (compare this with Lesh earlier), they jam some more, Hart (I assume) solos at around 15 min, and they groove quietly before ending at 20 min.  Nothing here much captured my attention, to be honest.    The tape ends with Bishop asking, “uh, anyone else wanna come up and play? OK,” and then cuts off. 

Casady & Garcia, Olompali 1968, by Peter Risley

10/10/68 Matrix
5186 has the first and second halves reversed.  I have no idea which is correct, but I'm inclined to think 4513 is the right order, although though they do dive right in with a pretty heavy jam!  The sound on 5186 seems slightly better though: less bleedthrough and warble during the dead air bits.  There's no extra music, though, just different tracking. 

note: the Tapers' Compendium (and elsewhere) list Jack Casady as playing bass on this night.  I disagree; it sounds exactly like Phil Lesh to me (compare any of this with Casady's playing on the Elvin Bishop stuff on 10/8, or on the 12/16/68 tape below).  Casady also sat in this night with Jimi Hendrix at Winterland, and while it's possible that he also played at the Matrix that same night, I think it makes it even less likely that it's him.

Jam 1
Lesh and Garcia start off tentatively with a repeated 9-note figure that they play in unison, then start varying and dancing around - very cool.  Basically it starts as a B-E vamp that Garcia plays - 3ish min he starts soloing.  @6:25 he strays to B-A, giving it a "Fire On the Mountain" flavor (note that they explore a similar theme on the 5/21/68 Carousel tape).  This is sizzlin' -- nice buzzy, happy vibe.  I like this a lot.  @9:30 there's more FOTM.  @12ish min some bluesier licks from Garcia.  18:40ish seems like it's moving in another direction with a more minor feel, but then it's back to a slower B-A vamp @19:30ish min.  Some heat @21 min!  This has lulls, understandably, but they keep whipping it back up into high gear.  Nice!  Especially given that there are only two melodic instruments, this is some jam!  The drummers are throwing down, too, but the mix is very Garcia-heavy, which obscures some of what the rest are doing.  Pretty clean stop at 27 min. 
"We're just, uh, playing-- thanks.  We're just goofing, that's all we're doing here.  That's all you're doing here.  Nobody's up to anything serious.  How many police are there here?"

It's a Sin
Garcia takes the vocal.  Same deal as the other vocal blues tunes: nothing facemelting, but there's an airy darkness to all this that I like.  Very different from the fast, strutting feel of Elvin Bishop's stuff on 10/8!
"Thank you [coughs].  Oh lord.  Aw, now what?" [someone: Sing it Louie! C'mon Louie!] "Hey does anyone want to come up and sing a song or something?  [?: Pete!] No man, not you.  Hey, Marvin's here, Marvin do you have harmonicas, would you like to, uh, sing?  You don't have any harmonicas?  Do we have any harmonicas?  There's one, there's somebody with one."

“Next Time You See Me” (blues shuffle in A, instrumental)
Same deal as 10/8, now played slower, and with harmonica. 

"The Rub" (another blues shuffle in A, instrumental)
Another blues instrumental with harmonica, again with a somewhat similar feel/structure to "Ain't It Crazy/The Rub". This is as good a place as any to point out that they were playing several tunes associated with Pigpen after ostensibly "firing" him from the band.

(Look Over) Yonder Wall
Marvin sings the vocal and plays harmonica.  The Dead never played this had played in 1966, but it was also a blues staple that they all surely knew: it was on the first Butterfield Blues Band record and also on Junior Wells' wonderful Hoodoo Man Blues, of which Garcia was a big fan. From the general chatter afterwards, it sounds like Marvin leaves the stage.

New Potato Caboose/Clementine jam 
Lesh starts a casual baseline, Garcia strums along.  Pretty!  This is cool.  There's a New Potato Caboose feel to this at first, and Garcia plays the opening NPC riff at 3 min.  @4:50 they shift to the Clementine (Coltrane-esque) bassline and stick with it for a while -- it still has that NPC feel, but Lesh keeps close to that baseline throughout.  Kind of a mash-up of both, but it feels pretty natural (I wouldn't be surprised if Lesh played this in some NPC jam, but I spotchecked a few and didn't hear anything).  After 10 min, Garcia brings it back to the NPC vamp before things move into darker areas; there's a cool spacious feel to the ending, and I liked this!  Ends at 21:27 with no segue.

Garcia: "...probably will show up pretty soon," which is followed by laughter and cheers.  Who?  Some more noodling, a tape cut and some bleedthrough, and then Lesh and Garcia begin playing some slow blues for maybe a minute, which is like a slow intro to

Lovelight jam -> drums ->
This starts slow and quiet, just Garcia and Lesh at first, but picks up tempo after 2 minutes or so (this intro is tracked differently on different copies).  Reel splice/cut @9:46.  A strong, loose Lovelight jam that winds naturally into Drums, which gets into an Other One groove midway through.

-> Jam (Caution/Other One) > Death Don't Have No Mercy
Garcia and Lesh hit a big E chord at their re-entry, however, like an Alligator jam.  There's kind of a mixed Lovelight/Other One feel here, now in a minor key, a little more like an Alligator jam after a while?  At 4 minutes, they get into a clear Caution groove, and tilt back and forth between Caution and Other One territory for the duration, with the Other One finally winning out.  Pretty cool.  Hart gets on glockenspiel during the come-down at the end, but instead of Dark Star they opt for Death Don't, which again sounds lovely in such a sparse setting.  There's a cut as Garcia and Lesh discuss something afterwards.

Dark Star (instrumental) -> The Eleven (instrumental) ->
They tune for a few minutes while Hart bonks around on glockenspiel, then kick off Dark Star.  On this version, imho, they sound a little spent, like they're getting to the end of the night.  Nevertheless, they work it for a good while, then move into another fine but not very remarkable Eleven, and then

-> The Seven
Garcia starts comping the chords again right away as Lesh plays bassline.  They work through both themes of this "song" and, though Garcia still doesn't cut loose, this is definitely a more involved version than 10/8.  There's some applause, and the tape cuts.


Evidently the first run of shows was satisfying enough to be repeated on Oct 28-30, despite some outstanding Dead shows in the interim (10/12-13 and 10/20/68!).  According to Deadlists, this second Hartbeats run was still advertised as "Jerry Garcia & Friends" in the newspaper, and Dick Latvala stated that tapes of the 28th, 29th, and 30th were in the Dead's vault.  Has anyone gotten to the bottom of that one yet?  [I see, belatedly, that JGMF's list of existent Matrix tapes has 10/28/68 labeled as the Steve Miller Band, nothing for 10/29, and 10/30 as "Dead jam"]

jgmf has also posted his own listening notes for this one.

Dark Star (instrumental) -> Death Letter Blues
I really like this!  The Dark Star is nothing particularly too intense, but Garcia and Lesh weave endless lines around each other forever.  Really wonderful!  And a really smooth segue into this sole performance of Son House's Death Letter Blues -- Lesh is still grooving on Dark Star as Garcia changes gears, reminding me of his comment in his Signpost to a New Space interview that Dark Star and the blues have the same essence, despite their different forms.  A tip of the hat to Lesh and the drummers, too, who keep Death Letter Blues bouncing along engagingly without any other rhythm instrument -- one thing that dings a lot of 60's "white rock guys playing the blues" stuff for me is the leaden-ness of the rhythm section, but this is a fine example that transcends that.

"Thank you.  I might explain that we're really here just playing, just goofing, I mean we don't have really anything in mind or anything.  Yeah.  We're just thrown together by fate.  And so we're, uh, playing Fate Music.  Call it Luck Music.  Fateful..."

The Other One (instrumental) /cuts
Lesh starts the baseline and Garcia jumps right in.  This gets pretty heated and is very good indeed.  One notable moment happens around 7:40 when they both lock into the same 5-note figure, repeat it a few times, then spin off into another key -- I wonder if this an example of the kind of stuff they wanted to try, but couldn't with Bob and Pig being comparatively "limited" in their playing?  But from start to finish, they maintain a pretty high energy level for the whole jam, which, like Dark Star, is quite long by 1968 standards.  Near the end (15:45) it sounds like Lesh hints at Lovelight, and they ease back a bit, but the tape cuts with clearly more to go. 

/St. Stephen jam/ (fragment)
This is a 90 second chunk of them jamming the simple riff that would, in a few months' time, become the instrumental bit after "one man gathers what another man spills" in St. Stephen.  It seems like the first time they added this little instrumental break was 1/25/69, but in 1968 they were just returning to the St. Stephen riff.  It cuts off in full flight.  I don't know what to make of this.  It seems out of place on the tape, given that the following track is...

/The Other One jam > Lovelight (instrumental)
About 100 secs of Other One-ish jamming -- but I'm not sure if this is a continuation of the preceding Other One jam or not.  Garcia brings it to a halt by re-centering the rhythm and Lesh takes it right into Lovelight.  This is less exciting for me, but they maintain the energy, and end it like the Dead would typically do.  Garcia thanks the crowd and the tape fades.

This is mislabeled: it's mainly just them setting up.  Lesh noodles a Dark Starry riff.  Garcia: "I don't think we have any straps.  I'll sit down if it'll make it--"   They vamp a little bit of a New Potato Caboose-esque thing.  Elvin Bishop gets his gear set up and plugged in, but for some reason...

"The Six" (Clementine jam)
...Lesh suggests "wanna try the Six?" and Bishop comps along quietly before dropping out after a couple of minutes.  This is the same piece that begins the 10/8 show, but more developed and tightened up.  It has a couple of different sections, but it begins with the same Clementine vamp and never seems to leave 6/8 time (I can't quite tell if there Lesh is messing around by playing a line in 7 then in 5, coming out even with the time).  I do not hear The Seven anywhere in here, but I'm in so deep at this point that I may be missing the obvious.  This is quite nice: slower and with a moodier feel than 10/8, but more confident.  Again, like 10/8, Garcia weaves it into

-> The Eleven (instrumental) -> Death Don't Have No Mercy
It takes them about 2 minutes to settle into the usual Eleven; parts of this felt a little hectic and rushed, other parts really dug in and wailed.  Very nice overall.  Garcia whips up a neat little walk-down transition into Death Don't, which is lovely once again.

Then Garcia then calls Bishop back: "Well, where's Elvin, where'd he go? Where'd that skunk go?" and Bishop plugs back in.  "What're we playing?"

Jam? (mislabeled "Prisoner Blues") -> blues instrumental (funky blues in D)
This jam is a highlight for me: it's definitely some instrumental tune, starting off in a New Potato Caboose kinda zone, but clearly it's own song (I'm hearing the chords as D7, G, Bbmaj7, A; any musicians want to check this?)  I love this!  Drifty, dreamy jammy vibe to this that sounds fantastic, very different from everything else Bishop plays on these shows.  He solos first, sounds fantastic, and Garcia takes the second half.  The last minute or so of this track segues into the following blues jam, fades out, then fades back in with the tape having backed up so nothing is missing -- someone could edit and retrack this.  This isn't the same "Next Time You See Me" blues thing present on the other tapes, it's something different with a different feel, more of a grinding workout for both guitarists.

Prisoner of Love (mislabeled "Baby Please Come Back to Me")
Garcia calls for a vocal mic for Bishop, who reprises his tune from 10/8 and takes the first solo, Garcia second.  Fine, but nothing too remarkable.

//Clementine jam (cuts in).
Lesh plays the Clementine bassline throughout, but they don't play anything else from "The Six" that I recognize.  Bishop is gone, and at first just one drummer is audible, but by 2:30 the second drummer appears; this could be a tape mix snafu, or maybe someone just needed to use the john.  Nothing fancy here, just a nice groove, and it seems to pull up rather abruptly (someone's calling out something inaudible) and ends.

They tune up and Garcia again deflects the applause. "That's not necessary... we're primarily just screwing around.  And, uh, so don't expect anything that isn't screwing around.  'Cuz everything we're doing is just screwing around unless otherwise stated in advance."  Some more lengthy tuning and dead air.  "Ok, let's play!"  Lesh hints Dark Star and cheekily suggests, "a little bossa nova?"

Dark Star (instrumental)
Divine.  Fades at 19:20 to silence -- sounds like the tape ending to me.


And that was it for the Hartbeats.  Or was it?  The Dead were busy from November onward and thankfully got the bees out of their collective bonnet, cutting the definitive Live/Dead in four months' time.  Garcia, of course, didn't stop performing with others, and there are two more sets of tapes that circulate with this Hartbeats label, which is misleading: apart from another nod to the proto "Fire on the Mountain" theme, there's nothing on these other tapes that are much like the Dead's material.  The three Oct 68 shows count as Grateful Dead shows to me -- unusual, certainly, but still far more like the Dead than not.  These other two tapes feel more like Garcia-jamming-with-others, like the 5/21/68 Carousel or 7/28/68 Olompali jams.  Maybe, as Lesh says (above), he stopped showing up, which meant that these jams would naturally sound a lot less like the Dead.  [edit: although maybe he didn't: he's listed in the personnel for a 12/23 Matrix jam session]

(and a newer transfer not at LMA)

The lineup here is Garcia, Jack Casady, and two audible drummers on each jam, one of which frequently plays percussion: Spencer Dryden is the given name for first jam, David Getz for the second, and I would presume that Mickey Hart is playing on both?  (see here) The Matrix's own records indicate that it was just a jam session, but per Deadlists: "Bill Gadsden said he copied from Peter Abram 'two reels with 45 minutes apiece of Garcia, Spencer Dryden, Casady, Getz, etc from 12/16/68.' ... Dick Latvala stated in an interview 'There are tapes of 12/16/68 marked Hartbeats at The Matrix, but I don't know if that's really accurate.'"  See jgmf's and Light Into Ashes' comments here for some discussion.

[edit: interestingly, the JGMF list notes a "Casady, Garcia, Hart & Dryden Jam" for 12/6/68, and a "Winter [Johnny?], Casady, Garcia & Bishop Jam" for 12/16/68.  Hmm.  Garcia is definitely the only guitarist on this existent tape, whatever the actual date is.]

The first jam starts after much tuning/dead air, and is about 41 minutes of mostly pretty uneventful blues jamming; the last 10 minutes picks it up and by the end it's pretty intense, but it's not enough to save it.  The second jam is a much more varied affair and much more enjoyable: starting with a sultry semi-latin feel, this one overall feels more rhythmically engaging to me and gets into more exciting spaces.  After a long bass solo, the last stretch (starting around 26 min) is an extended 2-chord vamp a la "Fire On the Mountain" (probably the source of the erroneous "The Creator Has a Master Plan" label that sometimes travels with this one; that Pharaoh Sanders tune has a similar endless 2-chord vamp, but the record hadn't been released at this point, and there's no other similarity).  It goes on for a bit too long before wrapping things up with a pseudo-calypso kind of feel.  OK, then!  Nice energy levels and intensity for this one.  The two drummers playing gives this a lot of its sizzle.

??/??/68 - Michael Parrish mystery fragment
A lesser-known tape (not at LMA) of two jams: undated, in low quality sound, too fast, and with globs of noise reduction applied (excited yet?).  The first jam is a nice poppin' groove, @4-5 min there's a FOTM feel once again (I-VII, not sure what key it's in since the tape is so speedy), and I think it sounds like Casady is on bass.  It's hard to make out if there are one or two drummers because of the muffled sound.  But overall there's a driving, light feel to this, very uptempo -- not too bad at all, but it cuts at 13:19.  Bah.  The second jam is just a repeat of the 12/16/68 second jam, but in way worse sound quality and considerably speedier.


The name, however, didn't go away just yet, and these handful of post-68 Hartbeats sightings give further credence to the idea that "Hartbeats" was short-hand for, basically, "Grateful Dead Jam":
  • 2/24 & 2/26/69 -- no one seems to know what the story is with this mysterious newspaper listing for "Mickey Hart and the Heartbeats (Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesch, and Bill Sommers)" [sic, sic, and sic] with Fruminous Bandersnatch at the Matrix; see Lost Live Dead.
  • 8/28/69 -- a Family Dog jam with the Dead, again minus Weir and Pigpen, plus organist Howard Wales and apparently others (including a flute player) was taped by Bear, who apparently labeled it "Hartbeats" (per Deadlists).
  • July 70 - "Mickey Hart and the Hart Beats, with Jerry Garcia" at the Matrix.  Maybe this was more acoustic Dead (this?), maybe cosmic jazz odysseys with Howard Wales, maybe something else altogether.  Light Into Ashes admirably wades into the quagmire here
courtesy Deadlists


Several folks have identified this Hartbeats "period" as a starting point for Garcia's concurrent musical life outside the Dead.  This may be splitting hairs, but I don't quite see it that way.  The earlier stuff with Jack Casady, sure: that 5/21/68 Carousel jam, the 7/28/68 trio jam at Olompali, the later not-exactly-Hartbeats stuff mentioned above.  December 1968 seems to have a flurry of documented extracurricular activity (per JGMF's list): Garcia played at Matrix jams with Harvey Mandel on 12/17, with Casady again on 12/18, with Bishop and Santana on 12/23, and with Mandel again on 12/24 (this one circulates, and was officially released in Mandel's Snake Box set), and with Al Kooper on 1/20/69.  [edit: JGMF's Matrix tape list includes even more -- I'm starting to think that this unknown Dec '68 stretch may have been a more significant period than we know, given the dearth of available recordings].  He went to spend many more nights at the Matrix with the New Riders, then Howard Wales, then Merl Saunders, but apart from the one-off "band" with David Crosby, Garcia, Lesh, and Kreutzmann that lasted a few nights in Dec 1970 (see Lost Live Dead), these were all relatively "organized" affairs that leaned closer to proper bands or side projects.  I do agree with a statement Light Into Ashes makes somewhere that Garcia's connection with Merl Saunders essentially ended this kind of amorphous public jamming, since it gave him a regular outlet for non-Dead music: by 1970, Garcia was working regularly with three pretty different bands, more or less simultaneously.  But while these three initial Hartbeats shows may be at the heart of this, they still feel like outliers in the stream of "Garcia on the side" activity: members of the Dead playing Dead material, with no real concept beyond digging deeper into Dead improvisation.

Another way to listen to these tapes is in the context of power trios, which was apparently on Garcia's and Hart's minds after Cream played in the Bay Area in March '68 (see Light Into Ashes).  Garcia and Hart were so inspired by them that they apparently discussed forming a trio with Jack Casady; I doubt that any of them were all that serious about it, but if you're looking for a place to map the origin of Garcia's "side trips" outside of the Dead, that seems to me like the place to do it rather than the Oct 68 Hartbeats tapes.  Casady, of course, went on to play more in this format with Hot Tuna.  Personally, however, I think Phil Lesh had an ideal melodic and improvisational sense to really make the most of such a format, and it's a pity that he didn't do more of this.  These Hartbeats tapes are a virtually unique example of Garcia and Lesh playing over a long stretches as nearly equal lead voices, and they provide nearly as much of a showcase for Lesh as they do for Garcia.

And, finally, jazz fan that I am, I can't resist pointing out that Miles Davis was playing a residency at the Both/And club in San Francisco in October 1968 (per Plosin), and I would imagine that the various Hartbeats & friends all would have been interested in checking that out.  Miles' music wasn't in full-blown Bitches Brew mode yet, but his sets typically featured songs that were based on increasingly simple ideas with minimal harmonic guidelines, segued one into the next, and were played with a very loose sense of structure and little adherence to any strict arrangement.  Could that have been an influence on the Dead and maybe even a small influence on their approach in these shows?  It may be wishful thinking, but I would say it's not out of the question.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Buell Neidlinger RIP

Apropos of that post on the Great American Music Band, I just saw that bassist Buell Neidlinger has died after 82 years of a life well lived.  This fantastic tribute by Richard Williams has only deepened my awe at the breadth of his work: Neidlinger not only played with both Monk and Ornette at the Five Spot, but also on little ditties like, oh, "Hotel California" and, um, "Y.M.C.A." (according to jazztimes, anyway).  Not to mention three small gigs with our resident hero, who was trying something new on an off-night during at the height of his powers.  I can only begin to guess at the conversations backstage.  Just incredible.

OK, back-to-back RIP posts means it's time for me get cracking.  Some stuff is in the works.