Thursday, December 17, 2015

I'll Take a Melody

I was listening to a little Allen Toussaint playlist I made for myself and the original(?) recording of "I'll Take a Melody" came on, sung by Frankie Miller on his 1974 album Frankie Miller's High Life (groan), which Toussaint produced, arranged, and wrote the bulk of the material for.

It's a great song, and one of the many things I like about it is that it slyly makes reference to its own chord progression -- "I'll take a melody and see what I can do about it / I'll take a simple C to G and feel brand new about it" -- a small testament to Toussaint's cleverness as a songwriter.  My discographically sensitive brain is drawing a blank on other song lyrics that refer to their own chords [edit: got one! "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen], but it's not exactly a common songwriting device.  Given that, it was always a tad disappointing to me that the chords aren't actually C or G: the verse and chorus are an A, D, E.  Just now, however, I noticed that the Frankie Miller version has the line: "I'll take a simple D to E and feel brand new about it."  Hmm.  Given that Garcia was singing the lyric and playing the chords, you would think he'd have noticed.  I wonder what was up with that?  Maybe his poet's ear was pleased more by the consonance of "see what I can do ... simple C to G" than the clunkier sounding "simple D to E"?

The other slight lyric change that I'd never noticed before was that Garcia sings "I understand why the old fisherman sail along, sail along [etc] / someday he'll be gone," while Miller sings it, "someday you'll be gone."  I'm not sure which one I like more, but both are appealingly opaque.

Monday, December 7, 2015

12/6/73: "I need water, Jerry!"

I’m a day late for a TDIH celebration of this one, but I just finished a big term paper and am treating myself to a little Monday night trip around the event horizon.  I was thinking about what I could possibly write about it, when I remembered that I already did five years ago.  Whoa.  lightintoashes plucked this from a defunct GD forum and was nice enough to save it at his blog.  I still stand by every word of it.

I don’t know that much more is needed.  I think this show is one of the very upper echelon shows, very likely in the Top 10 of all time.  It didn’t dawn on me until just now how the second set must be one of the most Jerry-heavy sets ever: Bob just gets two country tunes and Sugar Mags, while Jerry has the Dark Star>Eyes>Stella, a titanic HCSunshine, and a Ramble On Rose for good measure.  I also noticed for the first time that there’s this one dude in the crowd screaming, “I need water! Jerry, give me some water!” over and over after Stella Blue.  Where’s a Venusian Red Cross recruiter when you need one?

That's all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Alan Douglas: a brief encounter

Ellington, Mingus, Alan Douglas: Money Jungle session, 1962

I'm interested, as always, in how context colors your perception of situations and people you're experiencing third-hand, years after the fact.  It's funny how these things start: lately I've been listening hard and frequently to Duke Ellington's classic Money Jungle (which has now been a 20-year endeavor: "don't understand it too fast") and just today I realized that it was produced by Alan Douglas.  Alan Douglas is an interesting guy with a very interesting discography, with some amazingly varied and fantastic albums to his credit -- more on that in a minute.  His connection to the Garciasphere is slight but significant: he produced Garcia's first non-GD side project, the enigmatic Hooteroll? album, originally credited to Howard Wales & Jerry Garcia.  As I made that connection, starting with Douglas rather than Garcia, it struck me as pretty interesting that a maverick jazz producer made a record with Garcia.  But that's probably not how most other folks think about the relationship, if they even think about it at all.  But I think it's worth thinking about.

Actually, most people probably associate Alan Douglas primarily with Jimi Hendrix's posthumous legacy: Douglas is the one who originally had control over Hendrix's unreleased recordings and, controversially, began issuing Hendrix albums in the 1970's that replaced some of the original tracks with overdubs by other musicians.  Douglas also brokered one of the biggest "what if's" in rock & roll, Hendrix's never-realized session with Miles Davis (who apparently demanded $50,000 at the last minute), as well as a planned live recording with Gil Evans (which Hendrix didn't live to see). This all makes sense, given Douglas' jazz pedigree.  He also produced John McLaughlin's remarkable Devotion album with Larry Young and Buddy Miles, made in Hendrix's orbit in early 1970.  Prior to that, Douglas had a decade's worth of top-drawer jazz under his belt.  He recorded a week's worth of Eric Dolphy sessions in 1963 that were boiled down to two great but relatively unheralded LP's, Iron Man and Jitterbug Waltz, and had worked as the head of the jazz division at United Artists, producing a number of significant records: my own personal favorites include Money Jungle, Bill Evans' & Jim Hall's Undercurrent (another all-timer in my book), Art Blakey's 3 Blind Mice (while chopping parsley, naturally), and Mingus' live Jazz Portaits (aka Mingus in Wonderland).   Later, in the mid-70's, he was also responsible for a seminal early documentation of New York's jazz loft scene on the Wildflowers series of records.  Douglas clearly had an ear for cutting edge, important black music: another accolade is that he had the foresight (and the guts) to record what was arguably the first "rap group," the Last Poets in 1969, and another important proto-rap album, Hustler's Convention by Lightnin' Rod.

In 1967, Douglas founded his own eponymous multimedia imprint and released recordings and books by Lenny Bruce, Malcolm X, Timothy Leary, John Sinclair, and Allen Ginsberg, as well an early anthology of writing on gay liberation.  In the days before the infinite discography of the internet, I remember discovering more and more albums with Douglas' name on the back: I didn't really know what his story was, but he seemed to be an indicator of good quality, and I formed a composite picture in my mind of a messily eclectic label with a hodgepodge of artists and styles.  Not everyone saw it that way, though: Bill Laswell, another maverick and wildly eclectic producer from the next generation, said:
"I recognized that [Douglas Records] was a very consciously radical label.  Of course, there was a lot of radical music going on at that time, but Douglas had a wide range of releases that were all linked by the fact that they were pretty extreme or political, things that would wake people up.  It was probably one of the most creative labels from that period." (The Wire)

I realize all of this seems very far removed from Jerry Garcia, but Douglas was clearly a mover in the industry with a maverick spirit and an ear for the underground, so it's not all that surprising that at some point in 1970, he was hanging out in the Bay Area and met Garcia via Ron Rakow.  The story goes that Garcia invited Douglas down the Matrix to catch his gig with Howard Wales, and Douglas checked it out and immediately offered to record them, with the okay of Joe Smith from Warner Bros (who had the Dead under contract).  I find this particularly striking, given the company Douglas was keeping -- Hendrix, Miles, McLaughlin -- and his relatively high ratio of important recordings to forgettable ones.  He must have heard something in Wales & Garcia that put them in that league -- and, judging from the live Side Trips release, I wouldn't disagree!  Hooteroll? doesn't seem to warrant much more than a footnote in Douglas' legacy, which may be understandable given the foggy circumstances around it.  Joe, Corry, and lightintoashes have done admirable work parsing out the knowns and unknowns (links to various blog posts collected here at jgmf), but the full picture is still a little blurry.  Interestingly, jgmf also details another GD connection involving Douglas (again via Joe Smith) installing the recording studio in Mickey Hart's Barn, apparently with plans to record a Hart/Kreutzmann project that ultimately became Hart's Rolling Thunder album, though Douglas isn't mentioned at all on the release.
[edit: or maybe not? once again, lightintoashes is on the case]

Given Garcia's insularity and the Dead's famously thorny resistance to working with outside producers (with the sole exception Keith Olsen in 1977, who was about as far from Alan Douglas as one would think), it's intriguing that one of Garcia's few productive meetings with anyone so far removed from his circle was with Douglas, as brief as it was (and, technically, it was Wales' deal anyway).  Contextually, of course, we tend to situate everything around Garcia and the Dead and view outsiders' involvement through that lens.  In the case of someone like Alan Douglas, I think it's both interesting and informative to treat Garcia as the footnote, rather than the other way around.

from 1973 Jimi Hendrix documentary

Alan Douglas died in 2014.  Some more reading material on his career:

an excellent article/overview from The Wire, 1997:  

a fine obituary by the great Richard Williams:

New Yorker piece focusing on his earlier jazz recordings (and source of the above Ellington pic):

another thorough career overview, ca 2011:

a 1995 interview, mostly re: Hendrix and the Last Poets: 

see also Douglas' own website (not as complete as you'd think) and his discogs page (which also appears to be missing some things).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Europe 1981: more good than bad or ugly

Stanley Mouse's lovely tour poster

I spent the last couple of weeks working my way through the Dead's Europe '81 tour.  It's not a tour that springs to mind for many fans as a major excursion, though it's hardly an unturned stone either (see tour write-ups by Blair Jackson, the modern deadhead, and Peter Wendel; Rock Scully's book has plenty of typically wild stories, too).  Photographer Bob Minkin wrote an excellent firsthand account of the Amsterdam "Oops" concerts that was printed in Deadbase and the Taper's Compendium.  My guess is, thanks to his report and his excellent photographs, most of what has been subsequently written about this tour centers around 10/16/81.  It’s one of the most famous Dead shows of the early 80's and is now saddled with so much contextual baggage ("the last great adventure!") that a straight listen is a little bit tricky.  Listening to the rest of these shows gets even trickier if you're a fan of GD biographical reportage: besides numerous other interpersonal problems and behind-the-scenes discontent, Garcia's heroin addiction was starting to get really ugly and had become evident enough for the band to confront him about it for the first time (via a letter written by Phil).  This is all good stuff to know, but not necessarily at the expense of the music itself: the performances tell a different story, and that's where I would rather focus my attention.

Another obstacle is that the general quality of the recordings aren't very high: Healy's cassettes sound like straight patches from the PA mix with minimal adjustment (mainly to Garcia's guitar), so the balance is skewed in favor of the vocals and keyboards.  The guitars (especially Weir's) can be low and Phil is often close to inaudible.  While this is far from ideal and means none of these shows will ever be getting an official release, this also isn't news to anyone who listens to sbds from this era.  Even the redoubtable Richie Stankiewicz, one of the kings of early 80's tapers, had a hit-or-miss record on this tour.  But nearly every show has a listenable recording, so I feel comfortable with the picture I was able to draw, and I think most folks will enjoy the highlights.

(fyi, re: sources -- I'm just listing the sources that I thought were the best available, which weren't always the most recent transfers: some of those "Mr. Bill remasters" have too much noise reduction for my tastes, but some are genuine upgrades, and some of the older Weiskircher auds were better than Stankiewicz's.  ymmv, of course).

The top five (chronological):

10/2 Rainbow Theatre, London
1st set:
2nd set:
The first night at the Rainbow (where the band had played another four-night stand that spring) kicks off with a solid first set: unremarkable selection but excellent execution.  The second set is more of Frankenstein job: a dreamy, jammy first half with a unique Playin>Shakedown>Bertha>Playin, then a hot, tight post-Space run marked by the most exciting Spanish Jam of the tour and a monster Black Peter that Latvala had ranked as one of his favorites.  Smoking!

10/4 Rainbow Theatre, London
An excellent Jack Straw gets a fine 1st set rolling: I also enjoy this Jack-a-Roe, BEWomen, and the closing Let it Grow>Deal combo.  Deal, in particular stands out for some low, heavy B3 work from Brent (not unlike later JGB versions).  2nd set's Samson is one for the ages, Scarlet>Fire is a fine one with a particularly nice final Fire jam, and the Spanish Jam>Other One is one of the hotter combinations of these two that you'll hear.

10/12 Olympiahalle, Munich
The boys sounds goosed from their night off, laying down an energetic, but measured, well-paced show.  There's a strong Jack Straw > Candyman, Cumberland, and Passenger before the 1st set highlight, a sweetly flowing, excellent China>Rider closer.  The 2nd set starts energetically, but kicks into high gear with an unusually hot Estimated jam that slowly makes its way into a barnburner GDTRFB.  Garcia sounds like he's struggling a bit at first, but it's great to hear him focus, lock it down, and then take off like a rocket for the duration, even through a nice little coda at the end (shades of 1971).  Solid post-Space has another wonderful Stella Blue.

10/17 Hippodrome de Pantin, Paris
After a satisfying run through a pretty standard first set selection, the boys knock it out of the park with the best 2nd set jam of the tour, and I would venture maybe one of the better jams of the year: Truckin > Bird Song > Good Times > Estimated > Eyes.  There's not a wrong foot placed with some unique and very well-executed transitions, and the mojo carries them all the way through the very end.  Lots of shows from '81 get more attention than this one, but it deserves a listen.

10/19 Palacio de los Deportes de Barcelona
Their final night in Europe ends things on another high note -- after 10/16, this is probably the best known show of the tour, though that probably has more to do with it being Garcia's single performance in Spain.  1st set delivers overall, but it's elevated by a strong Franklin's Tower after Jack Straw and a very long (dare I say... incendiary?) Let it Grow that's got to rank as one of the hottest of the early 80's.  The third Scarlet>Fire of the tour is the best and really delivers with a truly masterful Fire, each solo elegantly crafted and perfectly built up.  Garcia goes the extra distance after Sailor>Saint for a few minutes of solo flight with the drummers in tow, and there's another fine Spanish Jam>Other One>Stella Blue and a Sugar Mags that stands out for some divebombing playing.

The middle four -- not essential, but well worth a listen:

10/6 Rainbow Theatre, London
He's Gone is the highlight of the show, surely performed in memory of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who had been assassinated earlier that day.  It's an outstanding performance, with an exceptionally beautiful and unusually developed introduction and a powerful jam at the end.  Garcia then threads a loose Blues for Allah melody through the darkest, heaviest Space of the tour.  There's also an inspired High Time and excellent versions of the Wheel, Sugar Mags, and Stella Blue towards the end.  The first set is well done, with one of the better Shakedowns of this tour and a fine Cumberland.

10/8  Forum, Copenhagen
The Forum was apparently the biggest venue of the tour, more akin the size of their US venues.  Maybe for that reason, or maybe for another reason entirely, this show stands out for having a very different feel to it, more akin to the dreamy, stretched-out vibe of fall '79.  It doesn't sound like it was coming easy to them tonight, despite some relatively rarities in the first set (heads up for an amusingly royal snafu in Cumberland, though).  2nd set Scarlet>Fire Playin>Terrapin is nearly an hour with a meandering, jammy, gooey feel that's quite nice, but not particularly hot.  A trippy, slow NFA and another very good Black Peter bring up the rear.

10/10 Stadthalle IV, Bremen, Germany
An outstanding first set, maybe the best one of the tour, book-ended by two powerhouse trios: a high-energy Shakedown>Bertha>Minglewood opens, and a jammy, expansive Bird Song > Let it Grow > Deal closes.  LIG is excellent, though not in the same league as Barcelona's, and this Bird Song is one of the best of the year.  The second set, unfortunately, has less that stands out and more musical flubs: the biggest clunker is when Garcia plows into Eyes of the World at such a manic tempo that he can barely keep up -- not the last time that would happen, unfortunately, but I wonder if this was one of the first?

10/16 Melk Weg, Amsterdam
The famous Melk Weg show.  The acoustic set is the equal of any of the 1980 sets, with a loose energy almost more akin to their 1970 acoustic performances.  The electric set is utterly unique, but however cathartic, spontaneous, or magical as it must have been in the moment, it doesn't translate to more than a well-played novelty set on tape, at least not to my ears.  Sorry, Hully Gully fans.

The bottom five:

9/30 Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland
A solid first night on the road.  The only recording is missing a chunk of the second set (nearly all of Eyes of the World), but saves itself with an impressive Other One > Stella Blue that's worth hearing.

10/3 Rainbow Theatre, London
Nothing in the first set did much for me, not even the closing Bird Song and China>Rider, and the second set looks fantastic on paper -- Stranger>Franklin's>Estimated>Terrapin -- but doesn't get itself together until the Estimated jam.  It's probably the messiest played set of this tour, and the only one that (audibly) suggests that Garcia wasn't in good shape.

10/11 Melk Weg, Amsterdam
Garcia and Weir played a brief acoustic set at the Melk Weg on their night off, apparently following a performance by punk/poet Jim Carroll.  There's a decent aud recording (and video!), and it's unusual to hear them play some of these tunes without a bassist, but ultimately this isn't much more than a curiosity.

10/13 Water Koebel Hall, Russelsheim, Germany
Nothing wrong with this, but it's a subpar show with no major jamming.  There's a standalone jam following Sailor>Saint with some compelling stuff from Garcia, but he bails after a few minutes and leaves Bob and Brent to jam in his wake for a while.

10/15 Melk Weg, Amsterdam
The first of the two "Oops" shows at the Melk Weg: without the novelty elements of the second show, this has much less going for it, and the band doesn't sound quite as dialed in on their rented instruments.  There are a few strong moments, though, particularly the fine Other One>Wharf Rat, and Phil was feeling inspired enough to pull off a rare bass solo instead of the usual Space tonight.

German tour poster,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

RIP Allen Toussaint

everything he did gon' be funky

Given what a major contributor to American music he was and how much he was in spotlight over the last decade, I know there will be far better tributes to the late, great Allen Toussaint than I could ever offer beyond my continued love for his work.  With the staggering amount of wonderful music that he wrote, songs like "I'll Take a Melody" and "Get Out of My Life, Woman" feel like a drop in the bucket.  If you are inclined to track it down, this great compilation of others' famous recordings of Toussaint's songs is well worth it -- or you could just blindly drop your finger on any collection of New Orleans R&B from the 1960's-70's and find some Toussaint-penned gold.

Tomorrow: an actual post about the Grateful Dead!  I promise, it's all written and everything.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Elizabeth Cotten

My heavens, this FolkSeattle fellow has some amazing videos on the ol' youtube.  Some of these I'd seen before (this Lightning Hopkins one in particular is a must), but somehow I only just stumbled upon this:

My god.  I don’t listen to as much of this kind of thing as I should.  Garcia was a devoted fan and played "Freight Train" with Grisman a few times over the years.  And "Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie," of course.  "Freight Train" also made one solitary surprise appearance at an electric JGB show to cover some time while Kahn changed a bass string.  Blah blah blah.  Just watch this.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dark Star, Oct 1986

I finally got around to reading David Browne’s recent GD bio So Many Roads which, as you may have heard, freshens up the story by structuring it around a series of dates and events (shows, mainly) instead of the usual straight-through narrative.  It allows him to touch down in places that many other GD/JG books have glossed over (gasp, 1984!), and he’s a fine enough writer to pull it off, but he has this thing for always keeping one eye on the dark clouds gathering on the horizon.  The book starts in 1962, when Garcia and his girlfriend go for a walk to the beach at the height of the Cuban missile crisis to wait for the end of the world, and by the time they hit 1972 (and 5/26/72, no less), it’s mostly all strictly downhill.  Browne is able to maintain that balancing act between the perpetual troubles ahead and the perpetual "chance of redemption [that] still hung in the air" (which he says of Built to Last), but honestly it just gets a little exhausting after a while.  It's still a good book and deserves a spot on a discerning deadhead's bookshelf, but man, it was still a little bit of a downer.

Nevertheless, there are some gems.  One that I particularly liked was in his chapter on the post-coma Dead’s resurgence (with ominous shadows of In the Dark just around the next corner, naturally), as he reports on the Dead’s bumpy return to form.  After a frighteningly unencouraging start to rehearsals in October 1986, bandmembers and employees are left wondering if Garcia was ever really going to get it back (his coma was in July!).  However:
Finally in late October, Hart returned to the office again and was smiling.  "We just did a really good Dark Star," he told them, adding, "It's back."  The Dead's ticket office booked comeback shows that same day...
Whoa.  Dark Star.  This was the same guy who had to relearn the guitar chord by chord?   If it's true, then talk about a missed opportunity for a good study!  Mirror Flashes: Dark Star and the Rebuilding of Neural Pathways.  Too bad Dead scholarship was still in its embryonic stages in 1986.

post-script: Chronology is a bitch, but it's worth pointing out that Garcia had already been "back" enough to play at least five gigs with the JGB that same month, including one at the Kaiser on Halloween, which is a good show.  Then again, maybe we have that Dark Star to thank for the lightning recovery.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

RIP Wilton Felder

RIP to Wilton Felder (Sept 27), who was a great saxophonist and a monster bass player.  How monstrous?

(and that’s Paul Humphrey on drums)

To name a few more: Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On (Paul Humphrey again!) and I Want You, Joni Mitchell (Court and Spark, Hissing of Summer Lawns), John Cale (Paris 1919), 70’s soft-rock staples like “Piano Man” and “Summer Breeze”, and a personal guilty pleasure fav of mine, Michael Franks’ The Art of Tea.  He’s on Grant Green’s wonderful Live at the Lighthouse, another funky jazz record that’s near to my heart.

But his main gig was playing tenor sax with the (Jazz) Crusaders.  I’ve heard that Felder wouldn’t play sax with anyone else, saving himself solely for the group’s sound — and they definitely had a sound, soulful and funky, that never endeared them to the jazz cognoscenti despite recording a load of successful albums.  I guess you'd call them underrated these days, but I’ve never heard a bad record of theirs (although, to be honest, I’m not crossing the 1974 line).  Scratch is a stone classic with at least one tune that may be of interest to JGBheads circa 1979-1980.  I contend that the Crusaders’ sound (and instrumentation) was a key influence on Kahn and Saunders as they created Reconstruction.  Phil Lesh was about as far from Wilton Felder as bass players got, but I'd bet you anything he was one of Kahn's favorites.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Lion's Share, 1/20/72, and Beans

The Lion's Share, Dec 1972, courtesy Dave Tamarkin

Just some scattered thoughts here, since the Lion’s Share has swam into my ken a few times in so many days.  The Lion’s Share was a tiny little club up in San Anselmo that Garcia and others frequented in the early 70’s.  It’s a pretty tangential little venue in the arc of GD history, although they the Dead played a few very low-key acoustic gigs there in 1970 along with the New Riders.  Lost Live Dead investigated the rather remarkable wake for Janis Joplin that was held at the Lion’s Den, and JGMF has some listening notes on a few shows that are worth checking out.  Bill Vitt (Garcia/Saunders) appears to have drummed with the house band, and local musicians like Garcia, Phil Lesh, Janis, Van Morrison, Howard Wales, and the Sons of Champlin all hung out and played there.  According to Daoud Shaw, who drummed for the JGB in 1981, he crossed paths with John Kahn (and Garcia?) at the Lion’s Share in 1973-74.  A handful of great early Garcia/Saunders tapes were recorded there: notably 12/28/72 and 7/5/73 both feature guests, including the same mysteriously unknown trumpet player (worthy of another post someday), and seem to give a good sense of the extra laid back vibe of that particular scene.  Old & in the Way played (and rehearsed) there a few times in 1973, there’s another great Garcia/Saunders gig on 6/4/74 with Tony Saunders on bass and some unusual jazz material... I could go on, but here’s a more thorough breakdown, and some more local color here.

Anyway, I was relistening to some of the Jan 1972 Garcia/Saunders shows — unlike the scattershot nature of early G/S tapes, we're lucky to have a pretty unique slice of Garcia’s non-GD life from Jan 1972 represented here, three shows from the same week (1/15, 1/19, and 1/20), two of which appear complete.  1/19 and 1/20 are from the Lion’s Share, and of course they’re worth a listen: Paul Butterfield shows up for a bit on 1/19 and sounds incredible, and 1/20 has a great, after hours kind of feel with some pretty expansive jamming in spots.

Then just now, I’m looking through this 2003 radio interview with Steve Parish, and one caller brings up hanging with Steve one night at the Lion’s Share

Parish: […] the Lion's Share sort of fell off the map. A lot people don't know about it. It was our little local hangout in Marin, there. We had some great gigs -- […] Jerry loved playing  there because it was a nice little low-key place and it was not too hard to do a  show there. We always had some wild rollicking times at that place. Thanks for reminding about that place -- 
Caller: It's a wonder more people didn't come to those things.
Parish: There wasn't anybody really recording them.  I think there's one or two recordings.  One night the Beans opened up for the Garcia Band. Now, the Beans were the first incarnation of the Tubes -- 
Caller: Vince [Welnick], huh?
Parish: Yeah, Vince was there. That was a crazy night.
Gans: That was right after they moved out here from [Arizona] -- 
Caller: A lot of good music came out of the that place.
Parish: Yes, it did.
And, lo and behold, Garcia announces at the end of the 1st set on 1/20/72:
"Thanks a lot, we're gonna take a break and Beans is gonna come and play and we'll be back later on."  
I always just figured Beans was a he, not a they.  No big thing, really — Garcia plays a set, some other dude plays a solo set (Garcia gets a long break, and no need for Parish & co. to move any gear around), then Garcia comes back.  But [the] Beans was a band (wiki) with Vince Welnick?  opening for Garcia in 1972?  Cool.

Welnick said, much later, “I was into all of [the Dead’s] ‘60s stuff; it was imprinted on me.  I knew the harmonies instinctively.  They were already shot in my brain.  In the ‘70s, when the Tubes started playing 200 nights a year, all I heard of the Dead was what I got on the radio.”  I wonder if he even remembered this?  Given the “wild rollicking times” at the Lion’s Share, ya gotta wonder.

courtesy Musoscribe: Bill Kopp's Music Magazine

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

9/10/72 Hollywood

I may downshift into brief(er) show reviews just to keep my momentum going. September = school (both dayjob and night school) = considerable readjustment of priorities, but then again, more work = more reason to procrastinate.  At any rate, my TDIH radar noticed that it’s almost the anniversary of 9/10/72 at the Hollywood Palladium, a lesser known show in a great era, but a personal favorite.

If I need to sell you on listening to a September ’72 show, then you need to find a different GD blog — but while this one doesn’t burn as brightly as many of the highlights of this venerable month, there is still a lot to recommend here. A 35+ minute Dark Star of this vintage would probably be the biggest one of those recommendations (with David Crosby sitting in, no less), but there are plenty of other gems. Apart from the standard 72 fare (a 20 min Playing in the Band, sure sure), this Bird Song is up there with 8/27/72, 6/22/73, and 9/7/73 as one of the best 70’s performances, and Sing Me Back Home ranks as my personal favorite ever (sorry, 8/27). Plus there’s a long, leisurely He’s Gone>Truckin’ (almost 27 minutes total!) to open the 2nd set and a rare-for-the-time Black Peter, too.  In the following weeks, they barnstormed the east coast with some of the best shows they ever played, but something about this night feels like the hell-for-leather energy of later ’72 was softened with a starlit Pacific breeze.  I love it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

the burdens of being an usher

(third track in)

There's a new transfer at LMA of one of the legendary Marty Weinberg’s recordings from the Capitol Theater on 11/7/70.  It's just the tail end of the 2nd set and all of the (short) 3rd set.  In my (and most everybody else’s) opinion, the 7th is the weakest show from this famous run (lightintoashes is on the case as always!), but this fragment is worth a listen for a little impromptu "interview" with an extremely laid back usher (not Ken Lee, I presume).  Nefarious fire chiefs and undercover cops notwithstanding, being an user apparently isn’t a bad job at all — if you don’t have to hassle anybody.  “The Dead is the worst one [concert] for hassling people… everybody smokes.”  Then we get a demonstration of said hassling: “Don’t smoke that joint!  Pass it around!”  Everyone's gotta make a living, I guess.

After some talk about police busts, plus an argument about which night has been the best so far, the interview closes with the revelation that the usher is sporting a bootleg Dead t-shirt (two bucks, “go to Flushing, Union Street”).  He refuses Marty's offer to buy any Dead tapes, though.  Professional!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ain't Got You > U.S. Blues?

Apropos of just posting a review of a July 4th show: the other night I'm sitting on the porch with a good friend and "U.S. Blues" comes on.  He casually remarks, "you know they totally stole this from Jimmy Reed?"  Oh really?  See what you think:

For you non-blues fans, Jimmy Reed's the guy who wrote "Baby, What You Want Me To Do," "Big Boss Man," and "It's a Sin."  Pretty foundational stuff for the Dead and for rock & roll in general.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

LOM 7/4/75 Great American Music Hall

Man, it's been a nice, long summer, and my work ethic is clearly on vacation.  But I've got some ideas trying to gell into a postable state, and this one was the easiest to wrassle into shape.  I've been on a bit of a Legion of Mary kick (a good soundtrack to match my work ethic) and had been paging through Howard Weiner's new-ish book Positively Garcia.  It's not without its problems, but it's still currently the only book devoted to the non-Dead side of Garcia, and it's also not trying to be any kind of in-depth history: Weiner picks his 13 favorite Garcia shows and reviews them in depth.  He's an early 80's man all the way, and only three 70's shows make the cut: 2/6/72, 6/30/72, and 7/4/75.  The first two get no argument from me, but the '75 pick surprised me (particularly because Weiner doesn't seem to much like Legion of Mary very much in the first place).  I knew it, but hadn't ever given it a critical listen, so what the heck?

a month earlier, in Palo Alto.  Not many LOM pics out there!
We are lucky to have two great sources, a Bettyboard and a fantastic Reinhart Hohlwein aud tape (which sounds like a stage mic recording, like those great Falanga/Menke tapes).  There's also a matrix, but personally I'd go with either of the pure sources in this case (an overview of the different available sources is here).  I listened to the sbd and was most satisfied.

Like most LOM shows, this one has its up and downs, but I do think this is more consistent than most.  The first set starts strong, but doesn't really hit it's stride until midway through.  I'll Take a Melody is a nice opener (it's missing from the sbd, though), then we get a slooow paced Feel Like Dynamite, even slower than most others.  Tutt and Kahn keep it tight and grooving, but it's still really slow and lagging a bit energy-wise.  This kind of deliberate extreme slowness is something I wonder about, but will save for a future post -- I know it's off-putting to many folks, but I'm fascinated by it even when it doesn't particularly work for me.  Someday Baby is one of those tunes that always seems like a good sign: not a staple of the repertoire, and not a real rarity, either, but it seems to me that it tended to make an appearance when Garcia was feeling a little spunky.  Then we get some lift-off: That's All Right Mama wasn't a common LOM tune (only one other version circulates, from two weeks earlier), but this really sizzles: unlike most other Garcia performances, Tutt and Kahn give this one a funkier rhythm, more akin to "That's What Love Will Make You Do," and less of the usual chugging rockabilly "train" rhythm.  Mississippi Moon is a song that I feel was done much better by later Garcia groups, but this one might be the best Saunders-era performance I've heard: it floats along just like it should, and Tutt throws in these nice snare rolls that remind me of Levon Helm on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."  Boogie On Reggae Woman finishes up the set on a high note: unlike Merl's first slowed down selection of the evening, this one is actually played a little more uptempo than usual.  They're cooking now!  I particularly like Martin Fierro's sax solo, which sounds pitched up higher than a tenor sax (he's playing through a Varitone or some other electric effect, I think; I'm pretty sure it's Fierro and not a guest).  The saxophone is another thing some folks don't appreciate about this era of Garcia, but I think Fierro was usually a good stylistic fit, and this is an A+ example of that.  It sounds like we lose a chunk of Saunders' solo in a reel flip, but this is still a top drawer version of BORW before Garcia announces the break.

Tough Mama splices in to begin the second set and things are still riding high: this version was released on the Legion of Mary official release, and I'd be hard pressed to find a better one (though TM fans should check the "4/12/75 early show" version, too).  Little Sunflower is good, but not great; I appreciate the diverse nature of this group, but I don't think jazz was really their strong suit.  Tutt and Kahn could really work wonders as a rhythm section, but not always on the jazz material.  This one, at least, finds a groove and floats along pleasantly, so no complaints.  Garcia gets everyone's priorities back in order with a strong Tore Up Over You, breaking out his slide for a little bottleneck action near the end that sounds pretty strong; then he eases back into a wonderful Every Word You Say, really shooting flames in that excellent final solo.  Merl's My Problems Got Problems is a solid one, not quite stirring up the the voodoo soul stew like the best 74-75 versions, but plenty satisfying.  I've never been a huge fan of It's Too Late but Garcia breaks out the slide once again and this one may be as good as they got on this tune.  Similarly, I also don't have a lot of love for these Tutt-era Harder They Comes, which tend to plod along and never get off the ground.  As tight as they are tonight, this one didn't feel much different -- it's a little bit of an anticlimax, perhaps, but they do kick up the energy for a flashy loud finish, which I appreciate.

Ups, downs, definitely more than just another night at the office for this band, but I don't know that it makes it into my own imaginary list of the greats.  For my money, Legion of Mary doesn't get much better than 5/21/75, and 5/15/75 is up there as well.  Still, 7/4/75 is a strong one and it's held up to a few repeat listens over the past few days.  Unfortunately, this July 4th weekend run of shows (the 4th, 5th, and 6th) was also the last stand for this group: Saunders and Fierro were left aside, apparently with little warning or explanation, and Garcia, Kahn, and Tutt began the first official Jerry Garcia Band a few months later.  This has always been a blurry spot in Garcia's history (and not one that reflects well on Garcia), but from a musical standpoint I think it makes a good amount of sense: without speculating too much, I don't think it's a stretch to presume that lumbering funk jams and jazz tunes weren't what Garcia wanted to play anymore, and I suspect he didn't see the band as ever going in a substantially different direction.  Weiner asserts in his book that Saunders' tunes don't "successfully co-exist" with Garcia's, and that Saunders and Fierro hold back the x-factor that flows freely whenever Garcia steps up for a solo.  I don't buy that explanation myself: there are nights, particularly in some of the fall '74 Garcia/Saunders shows, where Saunders and Fierro are totally on it while Garcia seems like he's treading water, and I tend to side more with the JGMF school of thought that Garcia playing challenging and unusual material tended to bring out more positive dimensions to his playing.  On the other hand, it could feel at times like Garcia was more like a sideman in the Saunders/Fierro band, though, and I can see why that would have naturally ran its course.  Other reasons (economic ones certainly) certainly came into play, but I don't see much mystery in why Garcia parted company from Saunders for the time being.  They did go out on a high note, at least.

Some final thoughts:

Check your hard drives and see if you agree, but I think the fileset circulating as 6/18/75 is a duplicate of this show: it's a different, lower quality aud recording and is clearly incomplete, but what's there sounds identical to the 7/4/75 performances, minus the instrumentals.

Amazingly, Garcia played the GAMH 30 times between 1973-1976.  Corry at lostlivedead did an excellent post on the Dead's famous 8/13/75 Great American Music Hall show, with some excellent background color on the venue:

Also, during this same 4th of July weekend, Bob Marley was playing only a few blocks away at the Boarding House, with an additional show on Monday the 7th (broadcast on KSAN, circulating widely, and currently available here if you're interested).  We have tapes dated July 7 of the Dead working at Weir's studio -- I wonder if Garcia & co. crept on down to the Boarding House afterwards to, um, let off some smoke after a busy few days? (figuratively speaking, obviously)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Jerry Week 2015

I grew up outside of New York City [edit: my mother would kill me if she heard me refer to it as New York City.  Sorry, mom!], where Columbia University's WKCR-FM was renowned for its 24-or-more-hour birthday broadcasts of jazz legends -- I have particularly fond youthful memories of July 4th weekend, which meant 48 hours of Louis Armstrong alternated with 12 hours of The Twilight Zone on WPIX Channel 11 -- so something about the idea of marking left-of-center cultural icons with huge marathon celebrations has been hardwired into me.  Given all that, the idea that Jerry Garcia gets a whole 9-day week among the faithful just makes me happy.

I'm getting things started with one of my favorite Scarlet>Fires from 4/13/83 Burlington, VT.

Happy Jerry Week.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jerry Garcia + symphony orchestra

I'm not talking about that Warren Haynes + symphony tribute thing, and I'm not talking about the Dead Symphony #6 from a few years back.  It seems that Garcia himself was planning on performing orchestral pieces?  That was news to me when I stumbled upon this.  On 9/17/93 Garcia and David Grisman did an interview for NPR in New York to promote their new Not For Kids Only album -- the Dead were in the middle of their fall '93 Madison Square Garden run, and Garcia & Grisman had been on Letterman two nights before.  During the long interview, an orchestral project that was apparently in the works comes up twice in passing.  The recording circulates (here's the info file), although it's a pre-FM recording of their studio feed and not of the remote interviewer, so all you hear are their answers, not the questions. 

First, in response to a question about their arrangement of "Shenandoah" (track 8 @6:58):
Grisman: Jerry's commissioned me to write a guitar concerto for him, or some such orchestral piece of music.  I sort of thought that "Shenandoah" would sound good with a string section, so I thought I'd try and write a chart for it.

And again, in response to a question about the various styles that they play (track 12 @6:24):

Grisman: Well, we haven't played with orchestra -- I mean Jerry's about to do that --
Garcia: Yeah I'm about to break into that world… I'm doing this thing with a local symphony orchestra… I'm getting some things written, David's writing one of them, six or seven or eight pieces that are short pieces for me and a symphony orchestra.  They'll all be different, stylistically I mean, and I'm not sure what they're gonna be like, but that's the format, and the idea is just that I want to be able to play with a symphony orchestra.  Actually, the conductor of this symphony, the Redwood Symphony down the peninsula in San Francisco, asked me if I'd be interested in doing some collaboration of some kind.  I got thinking about it for a while and thought this'd be an interesting to do, so it's gained momentum and it's now the stage of the various composers who are involved are starting working on pieces.  They'd be short pieces like 5 to 7-8 minutes long, something along those lines.  But I'd like to be able to build up a repertoire of these things so I could do them with orchestras anywhere in the world… Well I don't know whether I'm gonna have white tie and tails or not.  I suppose if I really had to.
Grisman:  No, actually everyone in the orchestra is going to be given black t-shirts and sweat pants.

Whaaat?  Both of them had deadpan responses to spare that morning, but this doesn't sound like he's being sarcastic.  I don't remember seeing any mention of this anywhere before.  I wonder if any actual music was ever written and, if so, what happened to it.  Anyone?

This article on the Redwood Symphony from Sept 1995 mentions, "There had also been plans for a joint concert with the Grateful Dead until the death of Jerry Garcia.  Garcia's [first] daughter, Heather, is one of the symphony's violinists."  Fascinating. 

For now, though, this is what we've got.  If you haven't heard it in a while, it's a real beauty:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"finally, white people can play!"

I stumbled back upon lightintoashes' excellent Latvala tribute page and noticed an excerpt from this interview about his own musical beginnings as a fan.  Here's the full quote about how he started off listening to R&B and gospel:

I started going to gospel concerts at Oakland Auditorium, which became Henry J. Kaiser.  Every year, they would have all the best gospel groups in the country: the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Swan Silvertones, the Soul Stirrers, the James Cleveland Choir.

You'd go into the auditorium, and there would be all black people in their Sunday finest, bright colors, and hundreds of ushers in white gloves.  You'd wonder what that was about - and then you'd see people get the spirit, and go into epileptic seizures.  These ushers would pick them up, carry them out into the hall, fan them, and carry them back in, when they came back to their bodies.  I saw this one guy run from the back of the auditorium straight down the center aisle, and dive headfirst into the stage.  I said, "That's what music is supposed to do - move you."  Gospel music did it.

Music became my life.  Then when I was in my fifth year of college, about to graduate, wondering what I was doing, I went to my first Dead show, the Trips Festival in January of '66, and I knew that that's where I was supposed to be.  Thereafter, more music started happening, and I thought, "Finally, white people can play!"

Not sure where I want to go with that just yet -- lots to think about regarding race, performance, response to music as an experience, and more.  For all I know, some Dead scholar may have plowed this field already, and I haven't bothered to look yet -- but I'm always interested at thinking about the Dead as an "American phenomenon" specifically in terms of race, and I might as well use this blog as a journal of my thinking about this.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

like jazz, but boring (Slate on the Dead)

I have a few friends obsessed with Slate magazine's Culture Gabfest podcast, which I've enjoyed on occasion in the past.  One directed me to the latest, which covers the Grateful Dead in one segment.  I'm not much of a podcast guy in general, but I figured it was worth tuning in to see what the educated post-hipster literati had to say about the Dead's legacy and farewell shows.  The GD segment starts @16 minutes in:

Turns out, they've got almost nothing.  Ostensibly the topic is the Dead as a "tribal" music (ie, you're in the tribe or not in the tribe, with no one on the fence) and what about the music makes it so appealing/important for the tribe members.  Not a bad premise, I guess (though not one that I fully agree with), but they quickly slide into a very well-plowed rut of Dead criticism: every song is endlessly long, their albums are all worthless, they were well past their prime in the 80's, they were occasionally great and usually bad, their cult of fans were either fratboys or hopeless 60's burnouts.  Slate's in-house Deadhead is brought out to speak on the Dead's behalf and eagerly talks about tapestries of sound, dreamscapes, and psychedelic wallpaper, is apologetic for the bands' faults (my god, he even cracks the joke about what deadheads say when they run out of pot), and continuously refers to their music as noodling.  The hosts talk about shibboleths and rib on the in-house Deadhead for creating a three hour playlist of Dead jams for them to suffer through.  You can imagine the rest.

I'm always intrigued about the responses to the band in 21st century forums of popular culture where the band and/or its following have relatively little (or none) of a foothold.  20-30 years ago, you knew exactly what the response was going to be.  My own unresearched impression is that in the past decade, the contemporary music press has at least come around to the idea that there was a lot more to the Dead than what met the eye in the 80's-90's.  I'm talking about contemporary publications like The Wire, Pitchfork, that kind of thing, not older ones like Rolling Stone or even the New York Times.  I don't want to wander too far into vague generalities about how the Dead are viewed/received by critics of pop culture today, but I was disappointed and honestly a little surprised that a publication like Slate would be so lazily stuck in the past with their treatment of a band that, in Slate's own words, is a great American institution.

I'm going to listen to 7/18/72 right now to get the fuzz out of my ears.  Endless tapestries of sound!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

debutante blues

I can't think of a better thing to come along right on time for this weekend's 50th anniversary bananapalooza:

Hey now!  I mean, really:
working undercover with a boar hog's eye?
I'm going to go ahead and presume that the punch went undosed that night.

a little bit more on Stockhausen

When I said "Stockhausen was a big influence on pretty much everybody," I was really thinking about the Beatles, and Light Into Ashes reminded me about Miles Davis as well.  Paul McCartney was one of Stockhausen's more famous fans, and his influence on the Beatles (starting with "Tomorrow Never Knows") was even acknowledged on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.  This fine piece by Alex Ross does a nice succinct job of mapping the influence more specifically.

I dug out the two books that I'd seen connecting the Dead with Stockhausen: Alex Ross' excellent The Rest is Noise and Mark Pendergast's The Ambient Century both make passing mention of Stockhausen's lectures at UCLA in 1966-67 that were attended by "members of" the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane (Ross 474, Pendergast 54).  While I'd bet that Phil Lesh was the Dead's chief representative (he had already been studying this stuff prior to joining the Dead anyway), that still seems like a thread worthy of investigation.  Stockhausen himself also apparently took in some concerts at the Fillmore.

LIA also pointed out that Garcia himself shows no sign of having listened to anything like this, whereas Lesh and Weir have mentioned classical influences in interviews.  At the risk of sounding like even more of a dilettante, I'll suggest that music like Stockhausen's Kontakte may not need a lot of repeat listenings to completely re-wire one's sensibilities, particularly if one is possibly under the influence of a psychotropic substance like LSD.  Unlike, say, John Coltrane, who's impact in live performance was certainly just as visceral and potentially life-changing (cf David Crosby's great story), figuring out exactly what his band was doing probably required you to sit down and listen repeatedly to the record -- which is apparently what various members of the Dead did, Garcia included.  Certainly there is far more to music like Stockhausen's than one will ever appreciate at first listen (not that I know what it is yet), but I don't know that much of the internal workings of something like Kontakte would have really impacted the Dead.  My guess is that, outside of Phil Lesh (who, again, was already well-studied in this kind of music), no one was sitting down with the scores for this stuff and incorporating those techniques into the Dead's own musical approach.  Outside of Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa, there really wasn't much experimentation with tape loops and electronics, was there?  And by 1968, that influence was probably more directly traceable to the Beatles than to Stockhausen himself.  I'm also putting aside Seastones and Phil & Ned for now; clearly Ned Lagin owed a great deal to Stockhausen.

I would think -- and I'm just guessing here -- that someone like Garcia could have spent a couple of evenings bugging out over a record like Kontakte and then never intentionally listened to it again.  But that could have been enough: it still could have had a profound impact on his still relatively fresh and still-expanding conception of music.  I can see how just a couple of listens could prompt the kind of thinking that led to the Feedback meltdowns of the 60's, the sparse interior jams in the 1969-1970 era Dark Stars, that sort of thing.

edit: I went back through David Malvinni's The Grateful Dead and the Art of Rock Improvisation (2013), and he touches on Stockhausen a bit in one of his chapters on Dark Star, although not really in a way that answers any of my questions.  In short: 
  • Tom Constanten actually studied with Stockhausen in 1967, prior to joining the Dead.  That experience rubbed off directly on Anthem of the Sun [although maybe more in theory than in practice; I always had the sense the Anthem sessions were pretty chaotic].
  • Lesh was a devout admirer of Stockhausen, modeling his own early (pre-Dead) orchestral writing on Stockhausen's work.  Lesh also "ran the controls" for performances of Stockhausen's tape compositions.
  • "'Kontakte' is spatial music with swirling electronic effects, based serially on the placement of speakers in a room for its full effect; it clearly is the sonic godfather of the Dead's concept of 'Space,' a rhymthically free region relying on electronic effects both within sections of pieces like 'Dark Star' and as the middle point of the second set after Drums." (Malvinni 107)
  • There's another mention of members of the Dead attending Stockhausen's 1966-67 lectures (at UC Davis, according to this source, not UCLA), but no further details.
  • Stockhausen redefined his music as "intuitive" and "beyond improvisation," embracing the belief that humans were on an evolutionary cusp of experiencing universal consciousness, telepathy, etc.  The Dead (and Lesh in particular) embraced similar ideas of group-consciousness (both with each other and with the audience), though that seems more like a parallel aesthetic and less like an influence.
  • Stockhausen and his students may have attended the 4/24/72 Dusseldorf show… that's according to Rock Scully's book, though, so a grain of salt for that one.
So still not much in the way of specifics, beyond Kontakte begetting all the weird stuff in Dark Star, Space, etc.  I wonder if there are transcriptions or notes of Stockhausen's lectures?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

a little light listening: Stockhausen, Herbie Hancock

A friend came by last night for a little listening session with a handful of German electronic records, including Stockhausen's seminal work Kontakte (the 1968 Candide lp, if it makes a difference).  I think I'd heard it before, probably in a cursory "isn't that interesting" way during some college music survey class, but oh man, my mind was good and thoroughly blown by it last night.  One of my summer projects is to read and listen up on Stockhausen.  I know he's a big deal, but my firsthand exposure to why he's a big deal is pretty scant.  Time to do some homework! 

I also then remembered that Phil Lesh recommended Kontakte, in the same breath as Ives' 4th Symphony and Coltrane's Africa/Brass, when asked for some pieces of music that deadheads should be checking out.  Stockhausen was a big influence on Lesh and the Dead, but just saying that is kind of a truism: Stockhausen was a big influence on pretty much everybody.  The Stockhausen/Dead connection is worth some deeper excavating, but I'm not going down that rabbit hole right now.  Later, maybe.

After my friend left, I was in a electronic state of mind, so I had a nightcap with the atmospherically weird and wonderful "Water Torture" from Herbie Hancock's Crossings, the second album by his groundbreaking band Mwandishi.  Then I also remembered another off-hand link between the Dead and Stockhausen, via Hancock himself.  A few months ago I'd read his new-ish autobiography, Possibilities, and there's this bit when he's talking about the first time he heard Stockhausen:
"When I first heard those sounds [Stockhausen's earlier piece Geseng der Junglinge], I felt drawn to them, though I didn't really investigate how he'd created them, since I wasn't interested in making electronic music myself.  Stockhausen's work was often categorized as classical, but it fell on a continuum of avant-garde music that intrigued me, a continuum that stretched from Stravinsky and Bartok all the way to Jerry Garcia." (Hancock, 104-105)
OK then!  It's not often you see ol' Jer casually mentioned in the same company as Stockhausen, Stravinksy, and Bartok.  It's even more surprising because Hancock mentions throughout his book that he very rarely kept up with what was happening in rock & roll at all (although nowadays he's no stranger to crossover collaborations with all kinds of rock/pop stars).  The connections between Hancock and the Dead are actually pretty thin: I'm sure some of the band were aware of Hancock's music, and the Garcia/Saunders band shared a bill with Hancock at least once, but I think that's about it in terms of actual links.  A couple of other amusing things jumped out at me while reading Hancock's book, though:
  • Besides being a serious gadget-head, Hancock was also a taper: he taped a lot of Miles Davis Quintet gigs on his own (and tells a funny story about how Miles would scowl at him as he crawled under the piano to set up his mics as the gig was starting).  Hancock says that his soundman recorded most performances by the astounding Mwandishi band (circa 1970) and that the band would relisten to them obsessively, but all those tapes were stolen out of their van one night in NYC.  I guess that explains why all of the circulating recordings of the group are from 1971 and later. 
  • The Mwandishi group lugged around a $10,000 state-of-the-art portable quadrophonic sound system (circa 1971) so as to not be stuck with whatever old PA the club happened to have.  I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing this was still relatively rare for most touring musicians and unheard of for a jazz group in 1971.  Another book on Hancock's Mwandishi period (Bob Gluck's You'll Know When You Get There) also talks about the extremely high quality of Hancock's PA system.  Sound familiar, anyone?
  • Carlos Santana was invited to play on the Crossings album, but he couldn't hang with the music.
Stockhausen, the Grateful Dead, Herbie Hancock.  Where was I going with this?  Great minds think alike, I guess.