New doc JAZZ NIGHTS: A CONFIDENTIAL JOURNEY’s sax player and composer extraordinaire, Geoff “Double G” Gallegos and JAZZ NIGHTS’ director Hal Masonberg were this week’s guests on Chet Hanley’s 3-hour TV show JAZZ IN THE MODERN ERA from April 5, 2016.
There’s a lot of music and extraordinary archival video to listen and watch on this episode. And weaving in and out of those, Chet Hanley interviews Double G and Hal Masonberg about both JAZZ NIGHTS and Gee about the saxophone and his lifelong influences.
I finally caught up with Dead & Company live. It was at the Forum in Los Angeles for two nights closing out 2015. I’ve been watching and listening to the band’s entire tour online and have been incredibly impressed with the energy and communication happening up on that stage.
My experience of being there was pretty great, over all. AND it made me really miss Jerry Garcia. What I love about John Mayer’s contribution to this music is his profoundly contagious joy. This is a musician clearly having the time of his life and that spills out onto every member of the band and flows endlessly from there thru the audience. It’s an incredible thing to witness.
What makes the experience different for me from a Grateful Dead concert is Mayer’s lack of Garcia’s emotional depths. I don’t mean that as a slight against Mayer in any way. He is an extraordinary musician and has transformed this music into a whole new realm that is personal for him and allows the other musicians the incredible opportunity to re-explore this music in yet another context. One they are clearly relishing! And so is the audience! And so am I!
Even though ticket prices for the cheapest seats are lower for Dead & Company than your average concert, the prices are still considerably high. Ticketmaster is offered as an only option (with outrageous fees and surcharges), and like so much else in America, the less money you make/have to spend, the more you are penalized, marginalized and physically and statistically separated from those with more money than you. Growing up, I could pay $12.50 and get a seat in the first row. Or the twentieth row! …Or the last. All that was required of me was that I wanted to hear the music and had a desire to partake. It wasn’t an experience just for the rich and well-off. And we all sat together, intermingled, rich and poor, young and old. It was a communal experience that celebrated what we had in common, not accentuated what separated us. We weren’t isolated into roped-off sections, divergent tiers based on income. The only difference, perhaps, were those who camped out overnight for tickets (pre-internet) and those who bought them later. But that wasn’t class separation. What we have here and now is just a reflection of the attitudes and gross disparity our country has come to not only represent, but in some circles celebrate.
For anyone who read my most recent posts, you know I was not a fan of the music-making that took place in Santa Clara, CA. at the Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead celebration. To clarify, my intent is not to diminish the experience of those who were there or those who genuinely loved the music. So much goes into a concert experience and these particular concerts are so very emotionally charged. I’ve not talked to one single person who was in attendance in either Santa Clara or Chicago who did not remark on the amazing energy that was present in both stadiums. Through the roof. The outpouring of love must have been tremendous. That experience in itself transcends the quality of the music-making, no question. The sheer celebration and flood of emotional and spiritual experiences. The sheer importance of this music in our lives, this bond we share through it, the journeys we’ve taken both internally and externally, the absolute life-affirming nature of the entire Grateful Dead experience.
You can read my post on the first night here.
It’s an odd experience feeling disappointment around something so very special and important in my life. Some have shared my experience and interpretation, others have their own and it varies wildly. No experience is wrong.
I’ve been accused by some in the past few days of judging too harshly and being overly vocal about it. Maybe that’s true, but it seems more to me like there’s this unspoken notion that it’s clear heresy to express disappointment surrounding this occasion, to criticize any element of it. In essence, to have my own experience and voice it. It feels like going to see the Grateful Dead in 1994 and 1995 and commenting on Garcia’s playing and health. To me, something was clearly going on. It seemed like he was using again, in very ill health and the music suffered greatly. When I remarked on it at the time, there were those that suggested I was just being negative. But there’s nothing more I would have rather been doing than celebrating Garcia and this music and the band that I love. Perhaps for those who had just hopped on the bus at that time and had little previous experience to compare to, 1995 was a stellar year in Grateful Dead history and Garcia was in top form. But history has shown us that was not the case. There are very few out there now who would deny the difference, the change, the obvious.
Let me begin by saying I love these guys. I’ve been a hardcore DeadHead since 1975. It was a joy to see Phil Lesh smiling and having so much fun up there on stage for the first night of the 5-night Fare Thee Well 50th celebration of the Grateful Dead with the “core-four” remaining members of the band plus guests.
For many of us, there is no Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia. But the songs themselves and Garcia’s legacy seem to be (and hopefully are) undying; The spirit of the band, the essence of the music and all that it has inspired. And the band certainly tried to capture that spirit with what might well be the most ballsy setlist imaginable for a first night gig of this long-anticipated reunion. It was a DeadHead dream come true in terms of song choices. Not a single post-1970 tune was played. The jams were long and casual. Incredible rarities like Cream Puff War and What’s Become of The Baby were played, as well as one of the most beloved trifectas of all time, Dark Star-> St. Stephen-> The Eleven (with the William Tell bridge!!!). On the surface, this looks amazing. Unfortunately in my opinion, the quality of musicianship on display could not match the clear and loving intent of all involved.