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Published: 2007/03/21
by Dan Alford

Two Mountains and A Jam

Quick Picks:
Marco, Marc and Andrew, 8/11/05- A super group improv
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Fillmore East 1970- Perfect
Phish, Live Phish Vol. 17 – Tweezer > California Love > Tweezer
YMSB, 3/11/07- The final jam is brilliant fun
WSP, 9/20/06- Low Spark > Climb > Low Spark
A quick note that Im now dishing out tunes for The Friday Mix Tape in the Hidden Tracks section of Come check it out.

Allman Brothers Band, Allman Brothers Band Feb 70, Mountain Jam

This is the out of print 1997 ABB archival release from the Grateful Dead vaults. It was supposed to be the first of a series of other band releases from GD Productions, but to my knowledge its the only album of its kind. The Owsley Stanley recording is capped with a thirty minute Mountain Jam. Some one mumbles something like, Gonna jam, or Lets Jam, and theyre off at a run almost immediately. Snare heavy military rolls fuel the music while Dickie screeches and bends notes, Duane lacing through the holes. This is distinctly a Bear recording, with the drums at the left and right extremes of the pan, just a touch north of equatorial line. The rest of the instrumentation is packed into the center, just a touch in the southern zone, each one knocking into the others, and at times bouncing with enough force to lash out into the open spots in the mix.

At ten minutes the drums take over, cleaning up and going jungle before welcoming Oakleys big bad bass and a rough and funky new groove. The final ten minutes offer a constantly shifting scene. At one point Duane is trilling in the very likeness of a bird, but then just a moment later everyone is snapping out leads threaded around great drum fills. This is a dense and somewhat complicated Mountain Jam It is short but refuses to compromise on variety or originality. It aint the smoothest thing around, but its a look good a band doing what it does: taking risks.

Allman Brothers Band, Verizon Amphitheater 8/9/03, Mountain Jam

This meaty Mountain Jam, clocking in at thirty nine minutes, is the end of a high summer show in Charlotte that has some ups and downs in performance. But this song distills whats best from a loose attitude into a truly interesting exploration. The guitars whip up the music instantly, easing through the composition with a certain sense of grace and grandeur, grinning at the expectation. Some fun back and forth sparks a little blaze, and when it calms again, a jazzy mood falls over the sounds cape, Derek popping into Birldand before the drums take over. Butch and Jaimoe spread out, hitting a long jungle trance beat that deflates almost immediately under the pressure of Oteils first note. He begins to tweak and pop his solo, ending descending lines in Birdland teases here and there, and generally grinding out fleet fingered barrages. At about twenty eight minutes, Derek and Warren return, the music remaining jazzy and open. Gregg feeds in here and there, and Oteil tumbles down great licks as Warren leads the way into a sizzling passage. When Derek grabs the reins, he freaks out and drives the music low again, only to have Warren declare Afro Blue. Its a crazed interpretation that drives the whole jam home- Derek grabs that lead without a half seconds pause and just runs with it- a huge climax.

The Disco Biscuits, 12/31/99 Akira Jam

Performed as the improvised soundtrack to the anime classic Akira, the spinny dance music rises and falls in large, bloated movements, the details filtering in and out rather than actually dictating the progress. But then there are these birthings, these moments when the islands suddenly jut out from the waves, spectacular and shining. Theres one at nineteen minutes, and another just shy of ten minutes later, weighted down by ponderous, moody bass. It shifts and settles and suddenly blooms with organ washes and vibrant, viney guitar that races to cover the whole broad expanse- very dramatic stuff.

Somewhere near fifty eight minutes the jam hits a pure spot of dance trance- its the groove that underpins the whole improv and it stays for a long moment, bright and strong. Eventually the tempo and anxiety build, anticipating the climax of the film, and the jam races with a long whine over fervent beats that burst into a confident strut of a Basis for a Day. Its a perfect finale, but as grand as the Akira Jam is, listening to it eight years out, it does sound a bit dated, over loaded with synthiness. Not terribly so, just expressive of its time.

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