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Published: 2006/11/21
by Paul Ducharme

A Tribute To Mike Jaimes (1967-2006)

On Friday October 13, guitarist and longtime Wetlands employee Mike Jaimes passed away at the age of 39. His longtime friend and fan Paul Ducharme contributed these thoughts and images

To be a fan of Mike Jaimes was to be a fan of one the most inspiring guitarists of the jamband Community. Mike was the virtuoso guitarist and singer of New York City’s Native — one of the seminal jam bands. I first saw Native play, circa 1993/94 at the Nightingale Bar, McGovern’s, and The Wetlands.

When I saw him play I was instantly captivated; the seamless and effortless way he played he seemed to squeeze the notes out of his Paul Reed Smith, and his tone was unmistakably his own. Mike could take ideas from his idols, and take them to a place even they would admire.

Long before the jamband scene. I had been following The Dead for years, and saw many other classic guitar-based from The Allman Brothers, to Santana, Zappa, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. I was a taper and had been taping the Dead, and anything that was around at the time. Fortunately for me, it was the beginning of the not-yet-deemed Jamband scene’ in NYC, circa 1987/88.

I was God Street Wine’s first taper, and I had taped lots of other bands at Nightingale bar, and other venues. I’d check out any new band. A good friend who had helped GSW in the early days caught Native while he was working at the Wetlands — he told me I had to see this guitarist. He said Mike was like no one else he had heard in the scene.

When I saw Mike play I knew that I was seeing one of the very best young and upcoming guitarists. Native was different than most of the other Jambands of the time. Yes they jammed but they were distinctly different.

They had a strong funk vibe about them in the vein of The Meters. The band also wrote great lyrics and songs that had killer jams in them, not to mention the most blazing keyboardist. I taped that first Native show, and basically went to all their shows afterward.

Mike made me feel like no other guitarist that I had heard before, his solos were extremely emotional. For people who were privileged to know him as friend, you came to know why Mike had such an unmistakable way to share his soul with the listener. In Mike’s personal life, he always had a way to lift your spirits. As a musician, he would raise the playing level of anyone lucky enough to share the stage with him. He never would upstage anyone, although in my opinion he very well could have done so. Mike could play just about any instrument, and he was especially good on the piano. He went on to play in many bands, some as the keyboardist, after Native stopped touring in 2001. He played thousands of shows with Tiberius, Gent Treadley, Space Bar, Big Whiskey and Craig Dreyer.

In recent years, Mike became part of Vince Welnick’s band along with Greg Koerner, Tom Kaelin, and Dave Freidlander of Gent Treadley He was really in his element, playing Grateful Dead songs. Vince became a big fan of Mike’s, and they were good friends. After Vince’s untimely death, Mike played on a tribute tour with Tom Constanten, and sadly, these were his last shows.

At Mike’s service, Wetlands-owner Pete Shapiro commented that Mike embodied the essence and spirit of what Wetlands was all about. I would go further and say that Mike was what Life is all about. My life was a better life because of him.

I am currently working with Native’s drummer, Dave Thomas, on compiling and archiving some of the best Mike and Native had to offer. Amazingly, a new Native album is coming out early next year. I strongly urge anyone that has not had the chance, to get your ears on Mike’s music and enjoy it. I guarantee you will be happy you did.

Paul Ducharme

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