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Published: 2007/10/21
by Dan Alford

Fall Listening

Quick Picks:
U2, Rattle and Hum
Wayne Shorter, Footprints Live- What a pristine recording!
Phish, 12/1/03, Disc 2- Tweezer > 2001 > YEM
The Slip, 9/15/04- Rocky Mountain jamming
Sam Kininger, 2/6/04- Sam kills
A quick note that I’m now dishing out tunes for Stormy Mondays in the Hidden Tracks section of Come check it out.
Tony Williams 5tet, Oakland, CA 10/6/88
The “"Mutants on the Beach"” that opens this killer set from Yoshi’s in 1988 is an exhausting opus. A lengthy drum solo intro maps out the terrain ahead with barrages of cascading toms, backbeats and cymbal-shine so thick it nearly drones. The early sections of the composition are incredibly tangled and complicated, loaded with mirroring, fugue like passages, and stunning, split second drops. The band has pulled out all the stops and blazes through a solo > interplay > solo structure over and over through the center- Mulgrew Miller’s piano earns special mention for intensity and beauty. The finale revisits the opening themes, but does so with even greater fire, if that’s possible. Wallace Roney plays trumpet so clear and clean and bright. Words just can’t do this one justice. You may need to take a break when it’s done.
The set also includes a much more traditional "Walking Blues, Angel Street," which swings big and strong, like anidealized jazz track. The shorter “"Geo Rose" is lively and fun- an intricate composition with a particularly sweet moment at the end coming out of the piano lead. Bassist Billy Hurst puts down a throbbing line that’s overlaid with rim shots and horn statements, creating a minor jazz trance. The ballad "Civilization" features gorgeous, lilting saxophone that trails lonely and fragile until the rest of the band strolls up from below, making Pierce sing. Miller’s solo stays in the quiet zone, and when the band takes off again, this time with louder cymbals and flying sticks, Roney takes the lead, racing up steep steps and playing on the railing. This is top notch jazz and the "Mutants"”is a monster.
SKB 12/5/02
The first night of the short four date Japan run is very nice; in fact the first disc is probably the best single disc of the entire tour. A really fine "Kissing the Boo Boo" opens, with some deft interaction between Alphonso and Steve early on, and rowdy, rude-boy solo from Mitch in the center. It’s so good, he toasts the Toaster! Actually Mitch is on top the entire show, playing fantastically developed ideas with confidence and, well, guts. In the rich, heavy "Electric Wildlife" (still known as "Song Two" at the time), he’plays another rager and you can just about see Steve hunched over his guitar, smiling with his eyes from across the stage. "It’s Up to You" is also great, sweet and deranged in turns- as I said, probably the best single disc of the tour. However, the second disc also features a strong "Why Can’t We All Just Samba," with cascading stacks of sound from Mitch on the first solo. On the second outing, Steve rides a galloping rhythm, tweaking the slide and slipping into piercingly high registers before gunning at the close of the song. At 28 minutes, it’s a healthy version.
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kingfish
This complete performance is from the Beacon on 4-3-76, nearing the end of the Dead’s almost 2 year hiatus (Phish fans have faith). It’s energetic and fun, Dave Torbert’s bouncing bass and vocals fueling much of the performance. Bobby sings a number of tunes and plays a very clean rhythm/support guitar throughout. Admittedly, there are a couple of hokey songs (mostly the westerns), but they are easily dismissed in light of the rest of the show. Some real standouts include the gospel "Bye and Bye, Juke," which would become a standard in early RatDog sets, and the cover of "I Hear You Knockin." It is the last six tracks of disc two, however, that offer the most appealing succession of songs. An ebullient "Jump for Joy" and grating "Asia Minor" are sandwiched between a number of familiar samplings from the Dead’s repertoire, including a powerhouse "Lazy Lightning" > "Supplication." The transition shines with reflections of Matt Kelly’s harp and gives way to Bobby’s verbal onslaught in "Supplication." Whew! This show may be a bit difficult to find, but it is available and it’s certainly worth the hunt.
Soulive, Grinell, IA 12-9-00
Even though Soulive had only been around for two years this month (!) it’s fair to say that "Uncle Junior" is a classic opener. Filled with long, low ceiling-ed passages, it’s a nice joint to work out on. The constancy of the rhythmic pattern allows the three soul troopers to enjoy some extra interplay. Kraz’s guitar work is pronounced throughout Neal’s solo, accentuating it but not overwhelming it. Al’s turn-at-the-drop-of-a-hat drumming is flawless through the transition to the guitar showcase. Eric leans on the wah early and proceeds to push himself farther and farther while Neal tries to chase him down with his right hand. A super smooth vibe is painted all over this version, and the goofy licks that outline "Shaheed" keep it rolling on. In fact this show is characterized not by the over-the-top lightning that has made this trio one of the hottest live acts out there, but by a stony sleekness that is entirely enjoyable.
A splice transition leads into “"Doin’ Something." A sharp slash of feedback begins a neat "Chameleon," Eric adding extra texture notes in his vox rendition of the coda. Alan’s drumming is excellent here, bubbling over and scorching the guitar for a moment or two before settling into a simmer. Neal plays the normally slow transition back to “"Doin"” like he can see the fire and shoots a sustained column of organ right to the close.
As I said last month, Project Logic member Casey Benjamin is my favorite young saxophone blower on the scene, so when he takes the stage, along with DJ Logic, to hit “"It’s Your Thing," it’s a treat. Eric begins the tune with the audience clapping along, and Logic pushes into it with a barrage of wicka-wahs. Kraz pulls out the first solo, very clean and staying in touch with the mellow vibe. Playful. Casey gets the second shot, groovin’ with just Al and Logic to start. He honks and tweaks with many short phrases as Neal lays out a funky bass riff. A real steep climb to the top that pays off. A short jamlet just barely touches down on the coda before Al and Logic do it over the one to four count. It’s fun, but not the greatest version around.
Logic stays on board for a very cool "Steppin’Remix." He spins the vinyl of Shuman’s vocal track while the trio gets down hard. Kraz bends the early section of the composition, Logic dropping out at just the right moment. The guitar solo is reminiscent of the one from “"It’s Your Thing," sharp and restrained. The "Janet" section moves at a nice pace, "Steppin"-sounding in regular intervals. Neal also holds it down, for as long as he can anyway. At the end he’s hopping, Al’s big bass drum pumps away, and all is groovy.
The intro to "JCA" tastes fine with Neal kicking heavy on the bass. The bloated vibrations keep bouncing through the vox solo, which is also commendable. It eases down into spastic flourishes before charging into the full frontal assault of “"Who Knows." Al’s solo rolls and calms and rolls again like waves, getting so very quiet, teasing with the "Who Knows" melody and snapping back to "JCA." The final section has the same feverish Arabian feel as the end of “"Bridge to Bama."
As much as Junior”is a classic opener, “"Church"” > “"Turn It Out"” is THE classic closer. I’m always surprised when a show ends with something different. This one has a longish post-"Church"”intro and speedy funk melodies from Neal. The end jam is odd; it doesn’t take off right away, but moves into a weird drum segment then back into a slower version of the stop/start jam that developed over the previous year. It’s certainly fun and serves as a nice cap to a loose, casual set.

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