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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2002/07/23
by Dan Alford

All Star Jams

Thoughts:
Its Summertime kiddies- turn off the computer and go to a show!
Keep in touch with comments or contributions, be they full reviews or some Quick Picks.
Also, keep an eye open for Audio Files B&P offers on the Jambands.com Tape Trade Board. This month a 4 disc soundboard of Phil Lesh, 2-18-01 was offered. The next offer will be up soon after this months issue is published.
Quick Picks From the Disc Changer:
SCI, 2-16-02, Disc 2- A random gift on tour- more on that next month.
Dicks Picks Vol. 13, Disc 3- The filler from 12-30-77 is outrageous. Check out the St. Stephen! Raw power!
PLQ, 2-18-01, Disc 1- Dancin > Milestones > Duprees
Vida Blue, Vida Blue- taking many, many more risks than Trey. Its really grown on me.
Coltrane, Live at Birdland- Afroblue opener- too much.
Discman: SKB, 11-3-01- Its Up to You opener & Incantation.
Music:
Berkfest All Star Jam, 8-14-99
The line-up for this fantastic All Star jam includes Fuzz and Rob from Deep Banana Blackout, DJ Logic, Dr. Didg, Oteil Burbridge, Nate Wilson from Percy Hill, Karl Denson, Bob Moses and John Scofield. It took place on a none too sunny Saturday afternoon, and as the second jam progress a massive storm head climbed into the valley. While it was behind the audience, the band members were staring it down the whole time, which may account for some of the electricity in the performance. It certainly accounts for the sonic flaw at the very end of the disc. This show circulates mostly as a soundboard matrix recording, and as the storms pounce became imminent the crew began to lower the stage while the band was still playing. Like wise, just at the end of the jam the soundboard feed was cut, so the last 45 seconds or so fall to a very fuzzy audience recording. It doesnt hinder the enjoyment of the set, but it is interesting to know just what happened.
After intros, Logic spins the disc he uses for Project Logic versions of French Quarter, but the music just mills about instead of heading to the Nawlins classic. Moses latches on to the loose groove, and Sco plays about a bit. The guitarists role in this jams success cannot be overlooked- one of Scofields finest traits is his leadership ability, and he helped to direct solos throughout both sections of the jam, cutting down on dead air and allowing the artists to flex their muscles with confidence. Rob takes the first solo, a long, lazy groove stroll, Logic adding many effects to compliment the sax and its accompanying rhythm guitars. What next comes across as a Logic/Moses beat is actually a didgeridoo solo but the mic wasnt happening- if you listen closely, you can hear it in little bursts. Sco, an admitted solo hog, steps in, maintaining the easy lead from Rob, even as Oteil wells up around the sides. Moses adds a nice little shuffle, and Logic sends in an array of pinwheels that help push the solo out of whack, and it eventually settles into a squirrelly bit of Scofield string scratching, the didg now sounding in here and there. Rising again, the groove becomes a slinky full band movement before Oteil peels out a fine, big finger plucking solo (no vocals).
Then Sco licks in with Cissy Strut, and the band catches on, Nate adding some nice Hammond riffs to the theme. It takes a minute to come fully to the song, and its a smiley occasion when it does. Now another saxophone appears in the mix, strong, confident, just letting it happen- Karl Denson, who did not begin the jam, takes the stage, blowing hard- a deluge of sound that carries with it excellent rhythmic keys and fluid scratching. Sco moves in for another solo, picking his way carefully around strange, oblong calls from the Doctor, and challenging bass lines from Oteil. Now Logic is barraging the scene with microwave ray guns and it begins to cook, but vaporizes instead. Nate Wilson tentatively tries to pull it back together, slowly building a solo with layers of organ flurries. There is some nice listening from Bob, and if you didnt know better, you might mistake the performers for John Medeski and Billy Martin. Nate plays in that strange angular style but brings it in clean with a long sustained bead that leaves off at the peak.
The following few minutes are loaded with nice interplay between Oteil, Logic and Moses before Sco and Fuzz climb on top and trade comments back and forth, the funkster mimicking the fusion great note for note. Eventually Rob and Karl join in as a mini horn section and the jam is flying again, right back into Cissy Strut to close the first movement of what Fuzz calls War and Peace.
The second movement begins with a strong groove from Oteil and Scofield. Again the horns function as a section, this time playing an up and down run that crashes and sets Karl free to romp. The band mates are excited and everyone dances around the saxophone- the sound is so full it sounds like Karl is surrounded on all sides. A heavy note eventually brings an excellent breakdown with just Bob and Karl, loose and jazzy. Logic joins the mix with whistle scratches periodically, but its the duo that shines and carries the groove back to the whole band. Suddenly Karl blows the lead to Jean Pierre, the 80s era Miles Davis composition that is a staple of Project Logic sets even today, and that was in heavy rotation in the trumpeters own band when Scofield was a member, and in just a second, the whole band pins it down. Sco steps up for another solo, and hes in comfortable territory. His playing is wonderfully fluid, spinning around upside down and backwards without a pause- some really great Scofield here.
A droning sound overtakes the movement, Nates Moog or Logics whistle cutting through ever so slightly before Sco creeps in as if to retake his stolen solo, but instead he acquiesces and lets Moses loose. The influential Boston area drummer and professor just rolls about his kit with that loose and groovy eight-legged octopus dance that is his style, calling out in nonsensical leads and vocal accompaniment. Logic washes over once and Sco rides in with Chameleon, both Karl and Nate sounding fine as the ensemble muscles through the Herbie Hancock funk classic. Moog notes carry into the jam and Nate is off on a strangely twisted trip, Logic adding big washes to aid the creepiness. Moses has another plan, however, and materializes under Nates increasingly crazy squiggles, building the groove around the solo, rather than guiding the solo with the groove.
Now the whole band is going at it again, just shuffling along- totally content. Sco takes a narrow line, electric piano and horn riffs passing in and out of the course. Oteil races in bursts, each one growing more forceful as Sco gets high and tense, and finally offers a long, well received vox solo when the guitarist finally relaxes. Even though Oteils solos sometimes get on my nerves (hes such a great bassist, why rely so heavily on such a gimmicky technique?), this one is beautiful and flows right back into Chameleon- the soundboard feed gives out and the Berkfest All Star runs from the storm.
What really makes this set shine is that even though its mainly comprised of classic, everyone-knows-it tunes, like any other All Star jam, there is a fantastic level of interplay. Certainly you want the musicians to listen to each other and not just blow solo after solo, but sometimes they take an overcautious stance in doing so (consider the NOLA 2000 Project Logic jam that has fantastic moments, but takes a long time to get started); instead this group listens and responds- they are able to solo and gel and make it all happen. Its definitely worth repeated listens.
Phish w/ ARU, Albany, NY 5/5/93
YEM > Jam
This very highly regarded jam closed the second set of the first night of a two night stand at the venerable old Palace Theater in Albany. The venue was only about 2/3 full, and outside I literally couldnt give away an extra ticket. Like others, I tucked the extra into the traffic sign outside the venue and headed right before show time. The next night the sidewalk was jammed with people- not a ticket in sight, but a forest of fingers pointing to heaven. While it probably happened early, maybe at the Capital Theater shows in November of 1992, for me this was when I knew that Phish was getting big- a real seminal moment.
The YEM itself is great, as good as any from that era, but thats not our concern here. After a super fly tramps, Page riding mighty high throughout, the members of Aquarium Rescue Unit crept out from behind Fishman and slowly entered the mix. Jeff Sipe takes over the kit while Fishman straps on the washboard, although you cant hear him for a few minutes. Meanwhile Trey, Page and Jimmy run through a quick breakdown before Oteil rumbles up for a legato solo, Mike maintaining the low end all the while. Everyone falls into a descending line that frays quickly and Fishman clatters into the mix. Trey starts calling out nonsensical phrases as the washboard scraping grinds out a rocking little jamlet with Page and Sipe, Trey eventually adding a nice, thin line to the middle. The jam blossoms organically, settling into a rhythmic wobble and someone quietly, but emphatically rambles through Treys megaphone- there is just too much happening too quickly to capture it in words.
A percussion fueled jamlet takes over, pounding and popping and crashing, and now Fish is blowing on the slide trombone. Whats really amazing is how Page ties the whole piece together with fluid, responsive piano. With his constancy, even the transition to the vacuum solo is smooth. Sipe dominates the accompaniment again, playing the kit more as a percussionist than as a drummer- really excellent work. The movement becomes hectic and Trey and Jimmy start to trade licks, although Herring is just slightly low in the mix. An appropriately tweaked out vocal bed appears- "Ive got spikes on my tires so I get better traction. Im mad as a hatter but Im ready for action." This is often wrongly attributed to Col. Bruce Hampton, but actually Bruce was the only member of ARU who didnt take part in the jam. The vocals are actually the work of the Dude of Life. Now Oteil grabs the mic for a patented skat solo, an aggressive shouting one at that, the end of which Trey grabs and extends with a brief, blistering solo to close. The whole segment, including YEM, is 30 minutes long and well worth checking out, as is the rest of the show, and the next night for that matter. Both circulate widely as soundboard recordings.

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