Sunday, August 25, 2019

10/31/74: they don't know what my love is

courtesy gdsets

Another quickie: I like this show a lot and come back it to fairly regularly, if not all that often.  Again, trying to avoid a big project (I caught myself about to make a Paul Humphrey Top 10, for goodness sake), so just a few things:
  • Paul Humphrey on the drums.  Good gracious me.  I am a big fan of Paul Humphrey.  The JGMF/Lost Live Dead axis has pinned down the specifics of his tenure with Garcia (I still contend that he is absolutely not on Pure Jerry 9/1/74 despite being credited), but my guess is that most deadheads unfortunately still associated him only with Lawrence Welk.  He did do some time on the Lawrence Welk show (everyone's gotta make a living), but he was also a session man par excellence and is one of the great funk drummers of his era: Exhibit A.   Dunno the circumstances of how exactly he was hired for Garcia/Saunders -- I believe it was Saunders who brought him in, and I presume it was for the sake of their east coast tour -- but he laid it down real funky for about seven weeks and then went on his way.  There is a lot of really, really great music in those seven weeks.
  • The sbd tape is decent, but not outstanding quality.  The drums seems to be mixed a bit loud, and I believe that the very fizzy/phasey sound of the cymbals indicates too much noise reduction?  At any rate, it's still Paul Humphrey on drums.   
  • John Kahn also sounds like he is in particularly good form tonight.  Go John!
  • Interesting to see Osiris as one of the opening bands (good luck googling for info about a band called "Promised Land" in any way connected with Garcia).  Thanks to Corry, we know that Osiris happened to feature Pigpen's little brother Kevin McKernan on vocals, and that Garcia had taken a paternal interest in helping them with gear and exposure.  Lots of info here (and much more in the comments).
  • The music!  Oh, the music.  Humphrey only had a couple of gigs under his belt at this point, and, while he never overplays, he was definitely a busy drummer.  To be honest, it didn't always work 100% of the time, but it sure works to everyone's advantage tonight: The Harder They Come, to my ears, didn't really find it's groove until later in Garcia's solo career, and the tempo here is a little sluggish at first, but jeez, Humphrey is killing it under those solos.  Expressway also feels a little leaden to me, but then watch out: everything after that is plenty fired up.  The groove in You Can Leave Your Hat On is borderline obscene; some serious voodoo soul stew happening in here.  Freedom Jazz Dance is outrageous.  Humphrey does get a little slap-happy towards the end of the set (the tape sound and the mix, to be fair, is doing him no favors), but the energy is way up there and it sounds like everyone is having a ball.  Tight and loose in all the right ways.


  1. I have always loved this show, always loved how the organ dominates the start of Harder They Come.

    Can you say more about Humphrey's playing? He is definitely busier than any other Garcia drummer. It sounds to me like he is always more on the cymbals and snares than on tom or bass drum or something like that. Light touch, higher in the register, etc.

    What makes his playing "funk" more than "jazz"?

  2. Jeez, I don't know where to begin. I don't know enough drumming vocabulary to really parse out why I identify Humphrey's playing as more "funk" than "jazz." My dilettant-ish take on it is that Humphrey is playing drum patterns that I hear as more common to funk music (the ur-text being James Brown ca 1967-69) than to jazz as defined by the rhythms of the swing/bebop eras. The way that funk drummers syncopate the beat is, basically, different from how traditional jazz drummers do it. Also, my sense is that what made the music of James Brown in the later 60's different from the "funky" R&B of Stax, Atlantic, Motown, etc is that Brown's drummers were typically playing far more complex patterns [insert intelligent comment about African diasporic music here] and that innovative rhythmic complexity is part of what defines "FUNK" as a genre, rather than just music (R&B or rock) that we describe as "funky." I think! I'm not 100% certain about this. Part of what's informing my own perspective on this is many years spent collecting jazz, soul, and funk music, and watching numerous debates among purists as to what counts as "funk" or not.

    re jazz: Humphrey did play on a number of straight jazz records in the 60's, although I personally don't think he's a particularly distinctive jazz drummer, even though he's obviously very good. His more funk-oriented recordings are what makes him stand out (to me!) as a memorable talent of his era. But like Ron Tutt or Gaylord Birch, he could probably play whatever anyone asked him to play, hence his success as a studio musician. Given what we know about how much direction Garcia et al was likely to have given (none), it is interesting (and very cool!) to me that Humphrey often defaults to playing in such a busy funk-oriented style -- or "busy" as compared to what Vitt, Kreutzmann, or Tutt played. Sometimes he could get carried away and overdo it, but in general I find his drumming style to be quite compelling, to put it lightly.

  3. Also worth noting is that Merl's first post-Jerry album, You Can Leave Your Hat On, was recorded in Sept-Oct 1975 (i.e. almost immediately after Legion of Mary broke up) and features Paul Humphrey on half of the tracks. The Garcia/Saunders group ultimately went with Ron Tutt, who had more a Garcia/Kahn connection (re Compliments), instead of Paul Humphrey, who was evidently Merl's choice for the fall 74 G/S lineup (although I need a citation for that one). I imply a couple of things about this, which I hope to develop in another post about this tour, but I am leaving this here in case I don't get around to it.