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Thursday, May 26, 2011

LN jg1974-02-16.jgms.all.sbd-alligator.91471.flac1644

A few days ago I posted about an advertised but canceled Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders band gig (Kahn and Kreutzmann rounding things out) scheduled for 2/16/74 at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ. I irresponsibly dropped a few notes about the replacement show for the night, and here I follow up on those bits and pieces. It'll be a little repetitive vis-a-vis the first post, but I want to round out the picture more satisfactorily. So, I'll (I) go again through the date context (including why an east coast gig would have been especially interesting), (II) run through some of the empirical terrain around the Berkeley gig, (III) give the key points I extract from my listen, and (IV) post my listening notes.

I.  Date context: why an east coast gig on 2/16/74 would have been noteworthy

What's noteworthy about this canceled gig, I think, is that the Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders group was not touring much beyond the Bay Area, and not at all off the west coast, at this point. Beyond the Bay Area, they had done the May 29-30, 1973 shows at the Ash Grove in Santa Monica, CA and the September 5-6 Hells Angels and Cap Theatre shows, before canceling gigs at the University of Iowa (10/20/73) and San Diego State (11/18/73).

After 9/6/73, JGMS wouldn't get back out of state (and to the core northeast) until July 1-3, 1974. So finding a listed gig in the middle of this range is pretty interesting, all the more so since, unlike those shows, there was no (planned) GD activity out east around the same time.

September 5, 1973 is the gig on the S.S. Bay Belle in NYC Harbor, immortalized in the film "Hells Angels Forever". Who knows the story behind that one? I haven't checked The Sources, but it's got to be interesting. Then the September 6, 1973 gig at John Scher's Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ the next night in front of the GD tour starting in Nassau on September 7th. To my knowledge this would be the second John Scher-produced GOTS show, after the Old And In The Way gig in Passaic on June 6, 1973. (As an aside, I have more or less ruled out the possibility of OAITW gigs in Camp Springs, NC on September 1-2, 1973 and the even less-likely Harpers Ferry, WV on September 7th.) I can only conclude that the planned gig 1) had some record company money behind it, and/or 2) related, reflected Jerry's desire further to build his non-GD audience base out east.

That's it beyond the Bay Area for this band during this timeframe. And instead of a 2/16/74 show in Passaic, we instead find the Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders band, as so many Saturdays before and following, at the Keystone, 2119 University Avenue in Berkeley, CA, 94704.

II. The Empirical Terrain of the 2/16/74 Berkeley show

The ever-reliable listings in the Hayward Daily Review --and, BTW, if anyone knows Kathie Staska and/or George Mangrum, who wrote the amazing "Rock Talk by KG" column for many years for that paper, please send them over here!-- from the February 15th edition (p. 51) list Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders for February 16th-17th, with Paul Pena billed for the second night as well. I am trying to determine if there's anything odd about the listings that might suggest that they were booked late, after an east coast gig had been canceled, but I find nothing unusual. I wonder if the Passaic show was canceled early enough that the Keystone was still free? Or if Freddie held it open for them "just in case"? Or if someone had been planned and got bumped ... or none of the above. We'll probably never know. There's nothing in the record available to me that points toward any of these. Anyway, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders are listed for Saturday 2/16 and Sunday 2/17, the second night also billing Paul Pena (Hayward Daily Review, February 15, 1974, p. 51).

Unlike so many other shows from this time period, we have three other data sources on the 2/16/74 Berkeley show. To quote myself, this is "maybe the only show from this time period represented by an audience recording (made by Louis Falanga, shnid 8063, missing the last two songs), a soundboard recording (shnid 91471, complete), and an ex post review." The review (1) is brief, but informative: we are told there is a conguero in the band, and we are treated to some nice color, the audience "packed into a crowded, smoke-filled room for three dollars a head", shoeohorned into the club "like cattle in a packing house", but grooving to good music.

Two absolutely fantastic tapes round out the record of this show. I'll probably note the Falanga aud separately, so I won't go into it here. I'll report next on what the board tape reveals for me.

III. Analysis

(a) The Tape

This board tape entered general circulation maybe three years ago from a mysterious, generous Garcia-vault-connected source named alligator. The tapes he/she dropped were all beautiful Betty Boards, from the "missing 3rd batch" that never made it into general circulation. Full, nice tapes. This tape is missing about 7 minutes at the start, which are, happily, available from the aud recording. So I'd guess that the total show time, with cross-patches, is probably 150 minutes.

(b) The Show

The performance is mediocre, to my ears. "More interesting than good", as I say below. Why interesting? Mostly because of personnel, also for a setlist rarity.

(c) Personnel

First, we assume that Bill Kreutzmann is drumming, though it's possible it was someone else. We believe that he was drumming with JGMS around this time, and of course he was identified for the abortive Passaic show for this date. We also assume Kahn is playing bass. Seems pretty safe.

Second, it has long been noted that there is a conguero sitting in the whole show. The contemporary review mentions it and the tapes reveal that this guy is very good. I have traditionally assumed that this was Armando Peraza. Not sure if that's documented somewhere or if it was my guess, based on his reported presence on February 11, 1972 and a published characterization of him as a "recently added member" of the group from around that same time (2).

Third, most interestingly, a second guitarist comes in for the second number. After a nice, hot "Soul Roach" he (presumably, with possible apologies to Alice Stuart) plugs in, tunes up and bends a few nice notes in the first couple of minutes of "La-La" [Allan | Scofield], not to be heard from again. Someone comes in and does some "la-la" vocalizing a few minutes later (ca. 6 minutes into the song). Sounds very Santana-ish to me. This might mean it's Peraza vocalizing while playing the congas, or it's the mystery guitarist. And maybe the Santana-ish vocals imply the second guitarist is a Santana guy? It's definitely not Carlos. It's someone who's not playing real loud, more of a rhythm guy to my ears. Thoughts?

My second guess about the second guitarist is Paul Pena. He was listed as opening on 2/17/74, though not on this night. But he was around a ton during this period. Either Freddie or Merl or Jerry or some/all of the above or someone else liked the pairing, because it was a very frequent combination. I have a studio date of October 4, 1973 for (some of) Garcia's work on Pena's New Train (not released until 2000). I know of no live performances together, but the back of my mind has always told me that it had to have happened a time or two. This could be one of them.

Anyway, anytime we get an episode of Garcia hosting someone onstage, it's worth noting. His willingness to do this sort of thing is a proxy for (if not effect of) his health: they are positively correlated. It also makes one wonder how much more of this there is. We know of a bunch of sit-ins from this period (that should be a post), including July 12, 1974 at Keystone by a second guitarist that I reckon to be David Nelson. More and better tapes, and lots of close listening, will likely reveal more of this sort of thing.

(d) Setlist

As I noted in the first post, the setlist rarity here is the Merl Saunders composition "Little Bit Of Righteousness" (also published as "Righteousness"). Regarding the name, the vinyl release Merl Saunders (Fantasy F-9460, 1974) gave the shortened title, while the 1997 reissue CD Keepers (Fantasy FCD-7712)  gave the longer title. On the intuition behind lex posterior derogat priori, I will go with the longer (later "officialized") title. It has sort of a CTI feel, with Martin doing a Stanley Turrentine thing. Another analogy might be a Zawinul composition from ca. '69 Cannonball Adderley Quintet. It's slower and darker, not the same pop of "Mercy Mercy Mercy" or anything like that, but some of the same swing. It's an awfully nice composition - bravo, Merl! This is the third of five known Garcia-Saunders live renditions of the song between 1971 and 1975. (It also appeared, improbably enough, in a Keith and Donna setlist from 8/20/75. The version missing from The Jerry Site is the otherwise-undated 1971 version found on the amazing, incredible, breathtaking, time-stopping shnid 93137). It was probably played many more times that are unknown for lack of tapes/setlists.

The other relative rarity is "Soul Roach", an instrumental credited to Merl Saunders and Ray Shanklin [Allan] and inspired, Scofield tells us, by "a swinging family in Denver". It looks like it was on Merl's first album (Merl Saunders Trio and Big Band, Soul Groovin' (Galaxy Records, 1968) as well as on the Garcia-relevant Fire Up (Fantasy 9421, 1973; re-released on CD, with different material, as Fire Up Plus [Fantasy FCD 7711-2, 1992].) It showed up at least twenty times, so it's not that rare. But it's good and interesting, generally speaking.

References for the post above, then listening notes below the fold.

(1) Beard, Micahel. 1974. Rock Notes: Garcia at Keystone. Daily Californian Arts Magazine no. 16 (February 22, 1974), p. 7.

(2) Hunt, Dennis. 1972b. Playing Small Rock Clubs is a ‘Release From the Dead’. San Francisco Chronicle Datebook, April 9, 1972, p. 8.

IV. Listening Notes
Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
Berkeley, CA 
February 16, 1974 (Saturday)

--Set I (6 tracks, 73:44)--
d1t01. ... Soul Roach [3:18] [2:34]
d1t02. La-La [14:35] [2:47]
d1t03. Think [7:55] [1:40]
d1t04. I Second That Emotion [12:21] [1:06]
d1t05. Are You Lonely For Me, Baby? [14:43] [1:22]
d1t06. The Harder They Come [11:11] (1) [0:12]

--Set II (5 tracks, 68:21)--
d2t01. Money Honey [9:48] [2:11]
d2t02. Wondering Why [14:21] [1:45]
d2t03. (I'm A) Road Runner [12:10] [1:19]
d2t04. Little Bit Of Righteousness [15:38] [1:00]
d2t05. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) [10:05] (3) [0:04]

Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
John Kahn - el-bass;
Merl Saunders - keyboards;
Martin Fierro - saxophone, flute.
?? Guest ?? - congas;
?? Guest ?? - el-g, ?vocals? (d1t02 "La-La" only).

Tape Specs:
MSR (10" reel @ 7.5 ips ½ trk, taped by Betty Cantor) > DAT3x > Delta Dio 2496 soundcard > Soundforge > Flac. A GEMS production -+-+- -+-+- April 2008

! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording. 
! db: (this source): a nice Betty Board; Louis Falanga audience recording, missing last two songs. These two tapes could fruitfully be brought together. This is a nice sbd and the Falanga tape is a stellar ambient recording. The Falanga could supply the front of the show and this could supply the rest, making it complete.
! ! R: d1t01 Soul Roach fades in (about 6:15 missing here, based on the timing of the audience tape), but it comes in fucking smoking. These guys are in the pocket already. The unknown conguero is right up front and right on.
! Personnel: w/ conga player, maybe Armando Peraza?
! Personnel: After Soul Roach, they are doing some beautiful melodious tuning for La-La, when a second guitarist comes in very clearly at 4:21 of d1t01, audible behind Jerry at 4:35, then alongisde clearly at 4:48, bending notes. He/she can be heard @ 0:45 and @ 1:15 of La-La (d1t02), but I don't hear him after that. It's so subtle and there's so little of it that it's about impossible for me to say who it might be. There are also some vocalizations @ 1:35 (sounds like two guys saying "cocaine", but maybe I am just cynical), and then some "la-la" vocalizing @ 6:52, 7:12. Sounds almost like what one might hear on the Santana masterpiece Caravanserai (somehow, it feels like it'd be at home on "All The Love Of The Universe"). That, of course, lends credence to Peraza being the conguero. (I could also be imagining things.) A little tickle in the back of my brain also wants me to ask if Paul Pena was opening this night. I have always harbored the idea that he sat in with Jerry and Merl at the Keystone, but there has never been any shred of evidence that such a thing took place.
! d1t03 (1) JG: "Turn down the monitors!" over the start of Think.
! d1t06 (2) JG: "We're gonna take a break for a while, we'll be back in a few minutes."
! d2t04 The setlist rarity here is the Merl Saunders composition "Little Bit Of Righteousness" (also published as "Righteousness". Regarding the name, the vinyl release Merl Saunders (Fantasy F-9460, 1974) gave the shortened title, while the 1997 reissue CD Keepers (Fantasy FCD-7712) gave the longer title. On the intuition behind lex posterior derogat priori, I will go with the longer (later "officialized") title. It has sort of a CTI feel, with Martin doing a Stanley Turrentine thing. Another analogy might be a Zawinul composition from ca. '69 Cannonball Adderley Quintet. It's slower and darker, not the same pop of "Mercy Mercy Mercy" or anything like that, but some of the same swing. It's an awfully nice composition - bravo, Merl!
! d2t04 They find a pretty nice groove in the 5-6 minute mark. Jerry does a nice little strumming solo, then from 6-7 mins in does some vamping rhythm. Merl is not very loud, and I don't think he's at his best here. In the 10-minute mark Jerry is stumbling around ... the whole song is stumbling around. Martin comes to the rescue by bringing the song back in @ 11:00 or so, and the next run-through is pretty good, but it never really takes off.
! d2t05 (3) JG: "Thanks a lot, we'll see y'all later."
! My overall impression is that this show is more interesting than good. The performances are mostly just OK. But the guest players and the one super-rarity in the setlist make this one worth checking out.


  1. re: the bay belle... there had been flyers in the east village about the gig. the boat ride took off from right near where the staten island ferry left, cruised up the hudson to the gw bridge, and then circled around just south of the bridge. there was a small crowd on shore by the bridge. i have no idea how much (or how well) they heard the concert on board. there were other bands performing besides the gkks quartet.

    I-) ihor

  2. 9/5/73 Merl Saunders (private Hell's Angels party and first time the guitar Wolf was played, Wolf's first appearance with the Grateful Dead was at the Nassau Coliseum on September 7th.) The ship was called S.S. Bay Belle at this time.
    Bo Diddley and Elephant's Memory (John and Yoko's backup band) also performed.


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