POP TALK [excerpt]
Things We Couldn't Get In Last Issue Dept.:
Jefferson Airplane landed at New York's Fillmore East May 3-4, accompanied by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. The Airplane, better than ever, played their last set until well after 3 A.M. and wore out three drummers, including their own Spencer Dryden, Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience (who sat in for the encores), and Jeff Butler (who sat in for the rest of the encores). Sunday afternoon the Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band turned Central Park into Golden Gate Park with a free concert attended by at least 10,000 people (and, judging by the volume, heard by probably half of Manhattan). The joint effort was initiated and masterminded by the bands themselves, Bill Graham of the Fillmores East and West, and Howard Solomon of the Cafe Au Go Go.
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MINI-INTERVIEW (which means the tape recorder wouldn't work, there was a hassle at the door, no place to sit quietly, and a full-dress, coherent interview was impossible, so we took what we got and printed what we could):
"We like to leave people speechless," smiled Jerry Garcia after the Grateful Dead's spectacular closing set of their May 7-9 date at New York's Electric Circus. The six-man San Francisco group (Garcia, lead guitar; Bob Weir, second guitar; Phil Lesh, bass; Pigpen, organ and harmonica; Bill Sommers and Micky Hart, percussion) did just that, after opening with a solid, rock-oriented first set and coming on at midnight with a virtuoso rock-jazz improvisation that must have lasted an hour or more.
The Dead began their career nearly three years ago as a rock band with a heavy blues sound; their first record, singularly unrepresentative of either their live sound or their present work, consisted largely of old blues tunes. ("Man," says guitarist Weir, "we don't remember those songs on our old record, and that's the living truth.") Yet the Dead-as-blues-band myth is still widely believed, despite the facts that Jerry Garcia lists Django Reinhardt as one of his major influences, that Phil Lesh spends a good deal of time listening to Coltrane, and that anybody with half an ear can tell from their music what the Grateful Dead are really into: namely, a tight, effective, highly original and beautiful rock-jazz synthesis.
"The blues," says Bill Sommers, "we started out doing it, but it's not our music. We don't do it anymore; we can appreciate it, really dig it, but we don't play it, and some people who try to play blues today - man, you have to be born into it. If you're not...well, you could be the best guitar player in the world, but you'll never in your life be a blues man. This is what a whole lot of people, really good people, are trying to do, and they'll never make it, because it just isn't theirs.
"I know people still think of us as a blues band, but it's just not so. We're into jazz much more deeply; what we do, it's jazz, it's rock, it's symphonic progressions...movements, they're programmed and they relate and interact."
Still another manifestation of the jazz influence is the incredible improvisation that has become a hallmark of Dead performances. "They break loose from the framework," explains manager Rock Scully. "But it only happens when they're all together in their heads. All of them have to be moving the same way, feeling the same way - if somebody starts slipping, the other guys yell at him or hold him up musically until he gets back. If he can't, then they all go back to the song's original framework. This is a very jazz approach; you can hear it in the lines, too. Some of Jerry's riffs are straight out of Django - things from like Pharaoh Sanders, Coltrane - Phil is into Coltrane - the music is all moving together now, and this is a very fine thing."
(by Patricia Kennely, from Jazz & Pop, July 1968)
Alas, no tape! But we do have another review of this Electric Circus run:
Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com