Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Donald Bailey RIP

RIP to Donald Bailey (10/15/2013), who was the drummer on many of Jimmy Smith's early classic Blue Note albums, which means he nearly invented a style of soul-jazz drumming that became foundational/blueprint stuff for many of us (and certainly Merl and, by extension, Jerry)

Ethan Iverson of Do The Math has a typically excellent tribute that's enlightening in several ways.  Reading about the particularities of Bailey's drumming is fascinating, but I also had no idea that Bailey was one of Coltrane's first call substitutes for Elvin Jones!  And that there's a 1963 bootleg of Bailey playing with the Coltrane quartet... time to hit the interwebs.

There's no direct GD connection of course. While Jerry, Phil, and Bobby were all particularly open-eared listeners, I'd be surprised if any of them were really digging Jimmy Smith, who must have seemed fairly un-hip to the beatnik crowd of the early/mid 60's (but I've been wrong before).  Bailey had relocated to the west coast in the mid 60's, though, so there's certainly a chance that one of them came across him playing in a club.  Kreutzmann, I would imagine, must have known Bailey's work on some level, and I'm sure Pigpen had a Jimmy Smith record or two.  But the Jimmy Smith/Don Bailey combos were certainly one of the foundations that Merl Saunders built his early career on, so the indirect influence of this style on Jerry's early solo career is worth a passing mention.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Since this blog will likely focus mostly on the Dead and Jerry's various solo endeavors, it seems weirdly appropriate that the first post is on Bobby's birthday. I'm inclined to say that Kreutzmann took the cake for "best birthday shows," though Bob's birthday was marked by several good ones. While my tastes generally lean more towards 1974 than 1989, 10/16/89 is a show that is near and dear to my heart. When I was 15 or 16 I taped the second set off WBAI (NYC) and I was floored. It was one of those "okay, now I see what the big deal is" moments that really got my ass on the bus in a serious way.


The show was released officially, but is still up at LMA. I'm not always a matrix guy, but this one does this show proud, particularly the excellent sounding second set, which has just enough ambiance to counter the "late era" sbd sterility. Heads debate the merit of the whole show, but I think it's a great one, period. Nicely spirited runs through Half Step, Stranger, and Memphis Blues make the first set more than just enjoyable, and a killer Let it Grow > Deal really turns up the heat for the main event.

The second set... well, just listen.  It's a perfectly constructed whole, with just the right mix of light and darkness.  Jerry's MIDI effects sound fresh and playful, not yet a part of the stock bag of tricks.

It's one of the great ones of the period.  Happy birthday, Bob!