Sep 5, 2018

October 1, 1967: Greek Theatre, Berkeley


It was a big day, yesterday, for the sophisticated jazz fan.
Eleven hours of mainstream swing and traditional Dixieland flowed from the Club Pier 23 on the Embarcadero during the Bill Napier benefit, and nearly four hours of the University of California's musical potpourri absorbed the afternoon at the Hearst Greek Theatre on the Berkeley campus.
About 5000 attended the Cal "Centennial Jazz" matinee and the Napier benefit drew over 500 to the waterfront festivities.
I would wish the two events could have been shuffled occasionally: the informal enthusiasm at the Pier 23 was missing at the Berkeley show, and the modern musical experimentation was lacking on the waterfront.

In Berkeley the Grateful Dead, rock-blues group, a generally interesting and popular electronic band, was boring. In an outdoor environment with brilliant sound projection (and the Greek's naturally superlative acoustics) the Dead's presentation never grabbed the audience and took them aloft.
No one danced, nor indicated any desire to, and other than Jerry Garcia's wonderful guitar variations there wasn't anything very interesting in the Dead's hour of ordinary chord changes, occasional vocals, and undistinguished rhythms.

The Charles Lloyd quartet, in contrast, displayed superlative individual musicianship, fascinating complexities in their ensemble performance, and a wide ranging series of themes on which to improvise.
Pianist Keith Jarrett constantly taunted leader Lloyd into esoteric flute or saxophone expressions, and when Jarrett devoted his whole introductory solo space to variations on strummed-piano strings and microphonic percussion, the Greek Theatre audience roared with delight.
I have never heard Lloyd's quartet in a more exuberant mood and their artistic good humor and good taste might well have been noted by the dour Dead.

The Bola Sete trio introduced the afternoon with a typical cross section of Sete's appealing guitar. His Bach, Villa Lobos, and Haydn mixed with flamenco and Brazilian themes is one of the most attractive blends of musical expression on the American scene.
[ . . . ] 

(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 2 October 1967)

1 comment:

  1. The rest of the review covered jazz acts at Pier 23. Note that 5000 attended the Dead concert, while only 500 went to see "eleven hours" of jazz bands!

    Elwood found the Dead a bore. He seems to be getting less impressed with them over the course of '67 - back in '66 he'd praised them for having a good beat and being "especially good for dancing," and he always complimented Garcia. But at Monterey, he protested that they "played too long" - in spite of their "fine experimental sounds" and "wonderfully rolling blues beat," they were "straying from the typical dance format." At an Oakland show, they were "pedestrian," still a step up from this uninteresting set where "no one danced."
    It wasn't that he was opposed to long improvisations, since he was thrilled by Lloyd's band (and other jazz acts) - but he was bored with the Dead's "ordinary chord changes" and "undistinguished rhythms."
    It could be that he caught the Dead on a bad day, or that they didn't come off so well playing next to a top-flight jazz band. Pigpen was no Keith Jarrett!

    The audience itself may also have been shifting over the year, from enthusiastic dancers to listeners who'd just sit and contemplate the band. (Though they "roared with delight" at Jarrett.) This change in the rock audience was often remarked on, but Elwood may have assumed that a quietly seated audience was just as uninterested as he was.
    Ralph Gleason had worried in a 9/3/67 Examiner article that rock music, like jazz before it, was becoming "more and more a show, more and more a music not to be danced to but to listen to, and going to the ballrooms became less and less involved with dancing." He feared that rock audiences would become like jazz audiences, "standing like statues digging the band. But not dancing...the music was impossible to dance to by anyone but virtuoso dancers.
    "At the Fillmore and the Avalon this past couple of weeks, the halls were packed so thick it was impossible to breathe. There were no seats and one could only stand, another subway rider at rush hour, jammed in the body of the audience which was watching the bands.
    No one, or almost no one, danced. There wasn't room to dance. The floor was packed with people sitting on it and the sides were packed with people standing...
    [The bands are] oriented less to dancing than to the show. But...their audience sits and stands and doesn't dance."
    ("History May Repeat Itself," SF Examiner 9/3/67)
    I'm reminded of the Midnight Hour at Rio Nido that day, with Pigpen exhorting everybody to get up and dance...maybe he needed to try that at the Greek Theatre!