DEAD LEADER WHO IS VERY MUCH ALIVE
Jerry Garcia is the principal power plant and instrumental, as well as inspirational, leader of San Francisco's oldest continuing rock band, the Grateful Dead.
Garcia is also the hardest working and most musically catholic of the Bay Area's electric-rock musicians.
He represents in every way the very best of our contemporary music image - too bad more people couldn't have seen and heard him via TV from Winterland on New Year's Eve.
That KQED presentation was, I think, an unrecognized classic in portraying the remarkable musical abilities of such as Garcia as well as capturing the camaraderie of the Grateful Dead's loyal fans.
Garcia is best known for his electric guitar work, his band leadership, his lyric composition and his singing. And also, probably, for his image - the shaggy patriarch of all that's San Franciscan in hard rock.
He is also deeply into acoustic guitar playing, and is becoming a bright and inventive master of the pedal-steel guitar which he plays with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a Dead subsidiary group.
Lately Garcia has been jamming at The Matrix (on Fillmore) with organist Merl Saunders, drummer Bill Vit, and John Kahn on bass.
What they have going in these sessions is experiments in sound. In the intimacy of a living-room full of good friends the audience and musicians alike have a chance to get to know each other through music.
The music is a revelation - free-form, pops, rock, blues, jazz, complex and basic. David Crosby, Dead and Jefferson Airplane members, blues and jazzmen also drop in for a jam.
The excitement comes from the appeal that any artistic experiments-of-combination represent. Confrontations in style and personality and musical approach.
Saunders, for instance, is out of the world of small combo night-club jazz, rich in blues and "soul" and variations on pop-tunes. He plays organ with emphasis on sound, not volume or flashy runs or ridiculously weird effects.
A performance by the Garcia-Saunders ensemble may last 20 minutes to an hour a crack and range from an initial blues statement to a combination of "Something" and "A Good Man Is Hard To Find."
"Where's today's music going?" Garcia repeated back to me during a break. "Hmmm - right now it's going in all directions at once, and I think that's where we're at right now.
"There isn't going to be any big trend toward some new thing or single style. There's too much happening, too much being discovered, too many great new sounds getting laid down.
"No, I don't think any of us are going to get trapped in any bag.
"Right now I'm doing more exciting things in music than I've done in my whole life. Recording with old friends like the Airplane, learning new things from people like Merl..."
(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 11 January 1971)
Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com