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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2001/11/20
by Dan Alford

Audio Files: Shopping Guide

Business stuff:
This month it’s the big Holiday Shopping Guide. Below
are some brief reviews of choice official live
releases from the past year, selections that would
make nice treats for friends and family. The list is
certainly not exhaustive, the glaring omissions being
Robert Randolph’s Live at the Wetlands, Galactic’s We
Love ‘em Tonight, Schleigho’s Live at Ho-Down 2000 and
the year’s best release, which will be discussed in
detail in the near future, Miles Davis, Live at the
Fillmore East (March 7, 1970). In general I’ve also
skipped archival releases, including the Vault series,
Dick’s Picks and Live Phish, each of which is a
spectacular source of spectacular music. The Dead
recently released the classic ’89 Bobby’s birthday
show from the Meadowlands, the JGB put out Don’t Let
Go (a quirky ’76) and Dick’s Picks just keeps churning
‘em out, including the 2001 additions of volumes
20-23. Of those, I favor 20 as it contains two nearly
complete shows from 1976, both of which exhibit
insanely tight performances. On the Phish front, many
people really dig Volume 3 (9-14-00), although I
prefer Volume 4 (6-14-00). An excellent side effect
of the 2000 biased Live Phish releases is that many
fans who were down on the ambient funk when it was
happening find that it really stands up on disc.
moe.‘s first archival release, Warts and All, Volume
1, is also worth checking out, especially the Kyles
Song > Meat > Moth Reprise on disc 3.
Next month I’ll round out the year with the warm
sounds of acoustic Jorma. The new year is already
shaping up nicely around here. Expect to see SKB,
Bruce Hornsby, Sector 9 and continued explorations of
Soulive, GD in the 90s and Project Logic. As always,
stay in touch.
Hanuman- Shine
Savannah, Pushkar, Baba Blues, Squirrels Revenge,
Todra Gorge, Elmer and Indigo, Chainsaw, Pedalhorse
At Berkfest 2001, I discovered the stellar acoustic
grooves of Hanuman for the first time. A friend has
suggested the quartet for some time, but laziness and
an abundance of enjoyable music kept my curiosity
level low. Upon hearing them, however, I was
immediately taken. Their most recent release Shine is
a live set album of their opening set for Mickey Hart
on 7-30-00. From the warm to sweltering sounds of
Savannah to the complex straits and glad vistas of
Todra Gorge, this disc lives up to its name. It is a
showcase of the band’s keen listening ability and
flair for subtlety. The eclectic percussion of Jarrod
Kaplan (djembe and anklet shakers) decorates the
acoustic bass lines. The guitars and mandolin of Paul
Benoit and Scott Law interact with a profoundly
understanding delicacy. Damien Aitken adds sax to a
couple tracks, strutting sharp leads and cleaving to
the cleaves of the instrumental compositions.
Standouts include the catchy mellow swing of Baba
Blues, the funky Chainsaw and Pedalhorse, a bonus
track recorded on 3-14-01 in Houston.
Grateful Dead, View from the Vault II, GDCD 4080
From Washington, D.C. 7-12-90: Victim > Foolish Heart
> Dark Star
Victim begins with all the heavy handed pathos and
galactic debris that one expects. Phil is
particularly strong, moving at a good clip and not
letting up. Jerry slurs and bends his notes, adding
to the angular feeling. Brent is low in the mix,
racing back and forth on the 88 steps. Suddenly, Phil
Bombs! Big Ones! And just a suddenly, back to the
steady gait. Jerry takes a wonderful,
light-in-a-dark-and-rainy-alley solo that slowly
slices through the morass.
And the morass is pretty thick by the time Jerry
starts up Foolish Heart. Phil’s energy becomes
pronounced again, although the intro is light and
meandering. Brent is more fully in the mix, working
rhythm and leads. Jerry and Phil dance each other
during the jam, playfully ducky and swerving all the
while. Bob quietly builds up to the peak, directing
like a breeze. Jerry goes for a rocky dose of rhythm
to start his end solo, but smoothes it out easily.
The solo winds down with pretty piano, but Phil keeps
moving straightforward, into Dark Star. And the
stadium erupts. Brent and Jerry lope down winding
trails, with Weir popping out from behind various and
disparate anomalies. The movement is loose and fluid
and warm. A little less than five minutes in, Jerry
becomes more aggressive, calling out Bobby and
prompting Brent to become sterner in his stance. Nice
drum flourishes decorate the sound before the first
verse. Jerry is hoarse and haggard, the sleepy voice
of an old man. Shall we go you and I while we can?
The jam is already back in the mire, never having
truly left. MIDI sounds come and fade, as does a neat
little jamlet created by Bob. At twelve minutes,
structure collapses, and while a full meltdown doesn’t
occur, a crumbling of walls does. Keyboard mashing
and squirrelly gremlins lurk where there once were
corners; arrhythmic drumming seeps in from all angles. And smooth as could be, Jerry plays the coda and,
beautiful, crystalline, the second verse comes around. On the journey back, Bobby tosses around ideas with
Jerry, and the music stays just a few degrees shy of
harmonious. Phil plays a few bars that don’t exactly
constitute a solo, but do work to spin the band around
for a last look at where they’ve been. This Dark Star
times in a just about 25 minutes.
Jazz Is Dead, Great Sky River, Zebra Records ZD
Chain Cat, Estimated, St. Stephen > 11 > Drumz > Jam >
Blues for Allah >Terrapin, Morning Dew
Although Jazz Is Dead has a bit of a rotating line-up,
the various collaborations that bear the moniker
continually produce fantastic music. The latest
release, Great Sky River, features Alphonso Johnson,
T. Lavitz, Jimmy Herring and Rod Morgenstein, and a
slew of strong instrumental improvisations based on
the music of the Grateful Dead. Alphonso and Jimmy
both shine throughout the disc, showing great
versatility individually and as part of the group.
Highlights include a breakneck St. Stephen that casts
a wide net and tumbles back to the Eleven with amazing
skill and precision, and lengthy versions of Estimated
and Terrapin. This disc should be of particular
interest to those who know Jimmy only through Phil’s
band, or only know Alphonso through The Other Ones.
Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade-
Live Frogs Set I, Prawn Song Records PSR-0001-2
Thela Hun Ginjeet, Riddles Are Abound Tonight,
Hendershot, Shattering Song, Running the Gauntlet,
Girls for Single Men, Shine On You Crazy Diamonds
Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade- Live Frogs Set II, Prawn
Song Records PSR-0002-2
Pigs on the Wing, Dogs, Pigs (Three Different Ones),
Sheep, Pigs on the Wing
Both releases from Col. Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying
Frog Brigade are worth repeated listens. Set II is a
very straight forward cover of Pink Floyd’s album
Animals. Lyrically heavy, it offers little in the way
of improvisation, but maintains the integrity of the
piece as a single composition.
The Jammy winning first set gives a better impression
of what the band can do. At times funky, at times
wacky, always hard rocking, it is Les at his best.
These should be especially interesting to those
exposed to Les through Oysterhead and those GD fans
who only know Jay Lane and Jeff Chimenti as members of
Project Logic, Live at Wetlands, NYC, Ropeadope
Intro > Miles, Black Buddah, Beanie Man, Gig 1 > Dub
Joint, J.J. Bailey > Bubblehouse, Drone, Jean Pierre
This joint that squeaks in at just under an hour, is a
limited release available only through Logic’s website
( and at Project Logic shows. It was
recorded at what must seem like Logic’s home away from
home, the Wetlands, on July 13th, 2000. Last year I
mentioned in an interview that the first studio
release, Project Logic, did not capture the real feel
of the band. This release, however, is a prime of
example of the band hittin’ a groove and riding it for
all it’s worth.
The Miles opener has spotty vocal tracks of a lift off
bubbling up through squawks and washes of sound. ‘You
are go to continue.’ And with that clearance, Stephen
Roberson sets pace with his high hat. Mike pushes in
with a series of cool notes, like pressing on Jello.
A groovey keyboard strut settles in and it’s clear
that the Project is all about the one. Nice drumming
holds this sleek groove together as Logic continues to
fire more and more FX into the mix. Mike is as solid
as Stephen though, and does not become distracted from
his train of thought.
Black Buddah is much moodier, with desperate screams
from Casey and pressing drums. Vernon Reid, guest
guitarist for the evening, follows a steady rhythm
course when he rises out of the fray but mostly plays
spacey chords here and there. About four and a half
minutes in Casey rips out a nice line that jumps
starts a quick swap between Logic and Vernon.
Beanie Man is aggressive, Casey dealing with the
familiar melody through the composition while the
guitar and turn tables race. Start/stops litter the
center of the tune as Scotty pounds out an amazing
bass line and Weitman unleashes a solo rife with weird
sounds and crazed thoughts. Casey drops the coda
once, hard. Taking the reigns, he merely slips over a
pulsating funk machine as it plows forward
Gig 1 is a strangely backward rhythm piece from Logic
that settles into a pensive dockside stroll. A
trumpet sounds off, with distance in its voice. More
FX flourishes from the DJ drift away to leave Casey
with a soulful moment before Vernon leads the way into
the angered reggae of Dub Joint. His mid song guitar
work is awesome and peppered with more trumpet lines.
Next the Project serves up a tight cover of MMW’s
Bubblehouse, nailing it down with a solid bass line
and dead-on keys from Mike. But there is also room to
cast about and Vernon takes a feed back laced solo
that ignites the stage. The drop that leads to the
final rise is so very crisp. Oh Yeah!
No song is more appropriately titled than Drone. A
static buzz is the floor on which small crystalline
structures are erected, only to be shaken apart by the
vibration. At the start it’s a great cool down number
with a heavy feel- powerful if you want it to be, like
What’s the Use. By the end an overwhelming tempest of
sound has raged in, clearing a wide swath in its wake,
and leaving only the drone.
A fantastic rendition of Jean Pierre closes the disc
with swingin’ rhythm and bright playing from Casey.
Logic is all over the tune, while Mike laces some
serious keyboard funk around Palmer’s big bass sound.
Casey takes a solo that turns into a full jam, Stephen
remaining steady on the one throughout. This disc is
one of my favorite buys in resent months. It offers a
glimpse of the genre bending, controlled madness that
is Project Logic. If you’ve never heard the Project
before, it’s a great introduction; if you’re already a
member, it’s a gem in your CD collection or a nice
gift for a friend.

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