Saturday, January 16, 2016

3/30/79: Sama Layuca

[edit, Dec '17: FYI, it turns out that the correct date is likely 3/31, not 3/30.  see jgmf.]

I’ve been a bit dormant with the late onset of winter around these parts (reading, family, work, jazz) and not listening to as much Dead or Garcia, but I did want to give some shine to a pretty remarkable gem I stumbled upon from an unknown-to-me Reconstruction show: 3/30/79 at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, CA (a very nice aud recording).  Sama Layuca was a McCoy Tyner tune that Reconstruction performed only a small handful of times (only five versions circulate), and while the earliest performances stuck to the usual head/solos/head format of most of Reconstruction’s jazz numbers, two other versions were rare occasions for the band to open up into freer, more uncharted waters.

On 3/30/79, Sama Layuca starts off with Stallings and Neumeister soloing over a tight groove that stays stable but threatens to unmoor itself, and by the time Garcia steps up front, things have started to fray and stretch.  His solo is outrageous, essentially one loud, fiery duel with drummer Gaylord Birch, with Kahn at his heels.  Saunders picks up the pieces, but Kahn’s solo tips things back into loud, noisy Space as Garcia rears back up.  It's all pretty crazy stuff, much more akin to a fired-up GD Space jam than anything Reconstruction usually did.  The only other version (or indeed any other Reconstruction performance) that gets this far out is another Sama Layuca from a few months later, 8/10/79.  Garcia, now rocking his brand-new Tiger guitar, takes it to similar places but winds up drifting away from the song and into a gentle, floating, spacey interlude that segues into Dear Prudence.  Just as sweet, but not quite as demented.

The rest of 3/30/79 is fantastic, maybe one of the better Reconstruction shows I’ve heard, but Sama Layuca is the clear highlight.  It’s definitely worth checking out, particularly for those not sold on the “disco” sound of this group.

btw, jgmf's huge Reconstruction overview a must-read for anyone into this particular side trip of Garcia's.  I have more to say on the significance of this band to the overall arc of Garcia's side career, but that's for another time.

with Reconstruction, 4/23/79, courtesy


  1. Wonderful! I want to revisit 3/30/70. And 8/10/79 Sama Layuca -> Prudence has always been a top-shelf favorite.

    1. You won't be sorry! I was pleased at how good 3/30/79 sounded, top to bottom. 7/6-8 are pegged in my mind as the "best" Reconstruction shows, but I don't think I've heard them taking it outside like these two Sama Layucas. I really hope there are a couple more moments like these buried away in some still-unheard (by me) Rec show.

  2. Looking back at JGMF's Reconstruction post, I noticed this fun fact: "Most [Reconstruction] gigs were midweek, and tiny rooms like the Cotati Cabaret and Rancho Nicasio provide the model gig space. Reconstruction's first Friday gig was March 9th in Cotati at the Inn; its next, and far and away its biggest gig to that point, was March 30th at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz."

    So there you go: a little more color for your listening experience.