Quick Picks (from Dead land this month):
Phil and Friends, Live at the Warfield- Disc 2 is has some stupendous playing
Phil and Friends, 11/2/07- The acoustic set, especially Dead Flowers
Ratdog, 11/3/07- The whole show is a killer Terrapin sandwich; with Kimock
JGB, Pure Garcia, November 9, 1991- Very high energy show with Hornsby
GD, View from the Vault Soundtrack- A favorite Eyes and great filler from KY
KVHW, 5/21/99 Chesters, Fayetteville, AK
This later KVHW gig is the first of two nights in Fayetteville, although there is also a Happy Hour set that precedes it, worth a listen in its own right. At this point in the bands short life, W stood for Whoever because Ray White was rarely able to make it to a venue, even with an escort, so essentially you have a much more guitar driven jam fest, with fewer of the soul covers; that has its plusses and minuses in the big scheme, but as a show taken as an example of any given night, this ones a smoker with Terry Haggerty on rhythm guitar. The show has a stellar Its Up to You in the first set, beautiful on the first outing, a bit lazy before pirouetting off into a throaty shadow for the second jam. As it pulls itself out and speeds up, it slides into the amped up polka of Mr. Potato Head and back to the coda to close. The Fooprints is a stand out too, with a cool Celtic stomp feel that continues to inform Hertzs best work with Garaj Mahal today.
The second set has a fat, goofy Poonk that is almost Phishy in a roundabout way, and a light, lyrical My Favorite Things with twisted spirals and offbeat wanking. It works its was out onto some precarious precipices and then glistens. Near the tail end of the night there is a wonderfully open and expansive Hillbillies on PCP that is not yet entirely tied down to the structured form it would come to have with SKB- theres a particularly gorgeous passage starting somewhere near 13 minutes in. The New Africa closer is open like this too. It would become almost a throw away set closer, but this one goes way out there, with some especially stunning bass playing from Vega. The Tangled Hangers encore is quick, but glows warm and relaxing. It feels like satisfaction.
MMW 2/23/07, Bridgeport, CT
Part of MMWs first seasonal tour of the year, this gig features all new material written just before the band hit the road, and which has already been recorded for a new winter album. The music is both decidedly fresh and decidedly part of the MMW canon. Its deeply grooved with some amazing textures and layering, but there are also a number of catchy little riffs and rhythm structures that ground the improv. Right from the start the music is heady, and the different recordings out there all benefit from a largely quiet audience. The second track has a killer bass line, a bright, popping signature for the song, and third track is drum piece played by all three band members. Next up is probably the strongest track, a wild green thing, like some primal version of the Rites of Spring channeled through channeled through Joe Zawinuls ears. Medeskis lead is so potent, it scorches itself on the brain. A must hear tune. The first set closes with a long, loping noodle with lots of little shakers and jangly bells shimmering around a cartoony mouth-harmonium drone. The second set seems to have a bit more free-form, as opposed to song-contained, improv, or at least the individual songs are less distinct. Except at the end, a pair of funkier numbers pop up, the first with a gospel edge and the second a quintessential MMW piece. This is very impressive stuff, even for such masters, and I think its fair to say they got just what they wanted when they undertook this yearlong project, an extra dose of vitality and excitement.
Jorma Kaukonen, _Magic Two _
Former Hot Tuna guitarist/vocalist Mike Falzarrano remastered this solo Jorma disc from the original recordings of an 84 performance. The first Magic album had only half the songs included here due to the limitations of vinyl, and it is worth it to pick up the updated version. The recording is a soundboard matrix, giving it a rich flavor and incredible dynamics.
As Jorma is alone, his distinctive vocals and skillful finger picking style are both on full display. In fact they often blend into a single form of expression, as in the stark Good Shepherd from late in the disc where Jorma finishes vocal lines with rhythm strokes or light leads. There are, however, a few nice instrumentals included, such as a brief, off kilter Embryonic Journey, Follow the Drinking Gourd, which rotates between furious rhythm, sharp leads and thumbed bass lines with jaw-dropping precision, and the almost gothic Mann’s Fate. For another thrill, check out the version of Mann’s Fate on Splashdown Two, another release with extra tracks from Relix Records- it is one of the best instrumental performances ever. Other highlights from Magic Two, however, include an angry Whinin’ Boy Blues with raunchy lyrical additions, a long Another Man Done Gone that teases Parchment Farm near the end and a sensuously textured Rock Me Baby.