Buddy Guy Accepts Jammys Lifetime Achievement Award Alongside Host Phil Lesh and Special Guest John Mayer
Buddy Guy received the Lifetime Achievement award at the fifth annual Jammys Awards last night. A noted blues guitarist and singer, Guys roots in the jamband community run deep, having performed with the Dead and Janis Joplin during the traveling circus documented on _ Festival Express _. After accepting his award, Guy led an all-star power jam anchored by ceremony host Phil Lesh and Roots drummer ?uestlove. John Mayer, a 2002 Jammy performer and Guy disciple, also made a surprise appearance, adding guitar to a version of Hoochie Coochie Man.
For many, Guys appearance highlighted an evening full of unique collaborations. 2004 JamOff winner Jonah Smith opened the ceremony with an hour-long set in the Theatre of Madison Square Gardens lobby, while the Disco Biscuits autographed copies of the current issue of _ Relix _ magazine. The North Mississippi Allstars kicked off The Jammys proper with Umphreys McGee drummer Kris Myers sitting in for Cody Dickinson. Freed from his kit, Dickinson stepped to the forefront for The Jammys first washboard solo. The North Mississippi Allstars returned to its classic configuration for a version of Freedom Highway, with vocal duties supplied by Mavis Staples. The former Staples Singer later offered her microphone to Buddy Guy for the first of several evening appearances.
Exploring his bluegrass leanings, Bruce Hornsby ran through his Valley Road with
Yonder Mountain String Band and Leftover Salmons Vince Herman. Of the collaboration evening, Herman said: It was great to be up on that stage looking out on the Congress of the jam nation. It looks like the House of Representatives out there. Everybodys representing from all around the country, and its pretty cool to see the scene come together and celebrate itself because for a while the counter culture had painted itself into believing that because were not part of the mainstream that we cant rule the world. Its that feeling in the room tonight. It just really says that weve got things on the agenda. Its really cool. Well always maintain our little niche, but were a lot more mainstream then we think.
Next up, Huey Lewis joined Umphreys McGee for a mini-set beginning with Heart & Soul. Soon after, Mavis Staples, Sinead O Conner and Jeff Coffin joined the collective for covers of The Weight and Ill Take You There. Coffin discussed his fellow performers contrasting styles: Lewis is powerful in a down-to-earth, almost Springsteen kind of way. Mavis is the diva, man. She wants to strut her stuff up there. She is strong, powerful and spiritual. Sinead was quiet, but still a dominant presence. Somewhat of a stranger to the jam scene, Lewis remarked I think its just fantasticits so eclectic. If we dont remember something we just go with it.
Keller Williams and ?uestlove provided the rhythm section for the evenings next jam session, which included a Nelly McKay-bolstered version of Bon Dylans Rain Day Woman. In addition to adding some mouth flugel, Williams proved his bass skills, sparring with the Roots percussionist. Williams, a first-time Jammys performer remarked: I didnt decide what I was going to play. Theres a fun thing I play on the bass that I do at my live show. I have the pleasure of being able to play with ?uestlove, so I figured instead of doing acoustic guitar and drums, Id do bass and drums. So I did this big medley of songs with ?uestlove on the bass and drums.
Over the course of evening, several scene staples offered heartfelt acceptance speeches. While accepting the Tour of the Year Award on behalf of Phish, Mike Gordon remarked that their award showed that the band could have gone on for several more decades. On a happier note, the bassist recalled first hearing bandmates The Duo at the Rope-a-dope New Music Seminar and being drawn to their greatness. A three-time Jammy attendee, Gordon also noted that The Jammys are kind of hectic, but this year seems more organized.
Ken Hayes, honored with the Grahamy Jammy, an industry award for support of the scene, discussed the founding of Terrapin Tapes and Gathering of the Vibes ten-year trip.
HeadCount co-founders Andy Bernstein and Marc Brownstein accepted the Mimi Fishman Memorial Community Service Award for their organizations pre-election work. _ Big Lebowski _ inspiration Jeff The Dude Dowd provided some onstage entertainment, noting that there is nothing better than a Mavis Staple and Sinead O Conner sandwich.
An evening highlight, Ryan Adams invited Phil Lesh onto the stage for a faithful reading of the Grateful Dead classic Wharf Rat. A longtime Dead fan, Adams is known to cover the groups material on occasion, often during his encore sets. Before jamming with Lesh, Adams said, Its an honor to play the Jammys. My entire career people have been telling me, you just get drunk and jam.
Earlier in the evening, the Benevento/Russo Duo accepted the coveted New Groove of the Year honor, making Joe Russo the first artist to receive a second award in this category (in 2000 he received the ward for his work in Fat Mama). Performing with frequent trio bandmate Mike Gordon, the Duo ran through a medley of its material before launching into Gordons The Beltless Buckler (off his 2003 solo album _ Inside In _). Les Claypool, dressed in a pig mask, and Gabby La La joined in during a jam which led out of the odd-ball Gordon original. Later, Lesh also joined in the fray, marking his first collaboration with Gordon since the summer of 2003. Claypool noted of Leshs playing: Phils phrasing always strikes methe way he drops those low-end bombs. It leaves your bowels rumbling.
In a bittersweet moment, the Disco Biscuits performed for the first time without founding drummer Sam Altman, who is currently preparing for a career in medicine. Scheduled to perform Honytonk with Travis Tritt (who performed his own show earlier in the evening at BB King Blues Club), the Disco Biscuits also drafted the country stars drummer for a version of its House Dog Party Favor. Tritt later took a well-received stab at the number, reprising the popular Biscuits song after Honytonk. Disco Biscuits guitarist Jon Gutwillig joked, We thought wed let him try one of our most difficult songs.
Medeski, Martin & Wood anchored the evenings most high-profile offering pairing of Burning Spear and Sinead OConnor. Along with the Antibalas Horns, MMW helped OConnor rearrange a series of reggae compositions, including Marcus Garvey, Door Peep, Jah No Dead and He Prayed, for the first time onstage. The downtown trio then stepped aside for a memorable vocal duel between the noted singers. Last nights performance marked OConnors first appearance in New York in over five years. MMWs set quickly faded into a show-closing powerjam centered around Lively Up Yourself. Luther Dickinson, ?uestlove, Disco Biscuits Aron Magner and Jon Gutwillig, Les Claypool and Marco Benevento all returned to the stage, with Gutwillig sharing a humorous vocal duet with OConnor. Burning Spear also showed off his percussion skills, moving behind his trademark rig.
_ Additional reporting by Nell Rickenbach and Wes Orshoski _