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Monday, May 29, 2017

Body ... Bent and Broken

LN jg1994-09-10.jgb.all.aud-vasseur.23791.shn2flac

Man, these late era shows are really changing my understanding of Old Garcia. I have been saying it in these recent posts: his lacks lung-power, his voice is weak, his muscles are atrophied and his wrists are sore. He is prone to forgetting lyrics.

These physical limitations dictate his vocal and instrumental approaches. Vocally, we find clearer enunciation and articulation. He wants to be in key, unlike Dylan, but this is interpreted pretty liberally. The grooves are slower and deeper, but a light swing touch can also work. He can still bop his head and swing his shoulders, even if he can't dig in, ass and hips and all, like he used to with his guitar, with respect to which expressiveness trumps power, and, really, the latter doesn't make much of an appearance through the whole show.

It's deeply flawed stuff, but if you know and love Jerry it's really, really good. The post title is a little dark, but he delivers that line from "The Maker" so amazingly, I just couldn't resist.


Random thoughts from the notes below:

! song: "Johnny Too Bad" and #death: He sings it as "one of these days "gonna hear a voice a say come" is JG, instead of "when you hear". I am certainly parsing too finely, his expressive variations were mostly driven by lips, mouth, lungs and brain, but I like it. "Gonna", as a declarative, penetrates more deeply in a probability sense, while the passive "when" leaves some space for at least momentary human delusion and denial, suspending the certainty of the outcome if only for a flash. For ol' Jer, it's gonna happen, And That Right Quick. And Johnny Too Bad, in my mind's eye, ends more The Lord Of The Flies than The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: there is, as the song reminds us repeatedly, no rock. Might as well play some reggae.

! song: "That Lucky Old Sun" and #race #musics and Old Garcia: As you might imagine with decrepit Jerry, "Lucky Ol' Sun" offers some real possibilities, and he takes especial advantage on "fuss with my woman | toil with my kids | sweat till I'm wrinkled and grey". As commenter Nick and others have helped me understand, Tin Pan Alley tunes like this derive from jazz but crosse the racial divide, with whites appropriating and deploying black tropes and affectations - not unlike good old rock 'n' roll itself. On the other hand, crossing over is his American birthright, and ol' Gar owns it lovingly, inclusively, the tender vocal delivery full of feeling, the band providing a spare backing for Jerry's gentle drop-sparkle string work. These tunes can really evoke Garcia's painting of himself and John as old Mission Street players, even from the loftier confines of the Warfield balcony or an 8,500 set amphitheatre on a hot Reno evening.

Jerry Garcia Band
Reno Hilton Amphitheatre
2500 East Second Street
Reno, NV 89595
September 10, 1994 (Saturday)
?Vasseur? shnid-23791 shn2flac

--set I (8 tracks, 50:15)--
s1t01. crowd [01:00]
s1t02. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) [5:45] [1:17]
s1t03. Stop That Train [7:06] [0:33]
s1t04. Get Out Of My Life Woman [7:27] (1) [2:13]
s1t05. Run For The Roses [05:14]
s1t06. Ain't No Bread In The Breadbox [08:04]
s1t07. My Sisters And Brothers [03:54]
s1t08. Deal [07:42]

--set II (7 tracks, 61:37)--
s2t01. The Way You Do The Things You Do [10:14] [0:22]
s2t02. The Maker [12:29] [0:10]
s2t03. What A Wonderful World [4:44] [0:19]
s2t04. Johnny Too Bad [11:05] [0:20]
s2t05. Don't Let Go [12:22]
s2t06. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) [04:21]
s2t07. Midnight Moonlight [05:10]

! ACT1: JGB #23
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, v;
! lineup: John Kahn - el-bass;
! lineup: Melvin Seals - keyboards;
! lineup: Donny Baldwin - drums;
! lineup: Jaclyn LaBranch - backing vocals;
! lineup: Gloria Jones - backing vocals.

JGMF:

! JGC: http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1994-09-10

! db: http://db.etree.org/shn/23791 (this fileset, shnf); http://db.etree.org/shn/97863 (absent from my archive).

! map: https://goo.gl/maps/fAbuJCQB6zt

! JGBP: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/07/reno-hilton-amphitheatre-2500-east.html

! R: field recordists: [presumed] Chuck Vasseur and Janet Vasseur.

! R: source: MAD (Vintage Neumanns) > D > C > CDR > WAV > SHN; shn2flac jgmf 5/23/2017.

! R: seeder comments: [INCORRECT: "First public performance of 'Johnny Too Bad'"] -- the 3rd song off the "Harder They Come" soundtrack that Jerry would play with JGB (others are "Harder They Come" and "Sitting In Limbo"). This is the second of five times out for JTB (9/1/94).

! R: seeder note: "Minimal hiss, more distant sounding than the typical Vasseur Warfield."

! R: lineage: DAE (EAC) and sbe-free SHN encoding by C.Ladner, May '04.

! R: something swishy and wonky about this tape, panning or something out of phase. By the time I am in "The Maker", it is sounding downright good.

! s1t01 HSII starts with "opened my eyes at night" in06-s2t07 stead of "I needed the shelter". He comes back to it for the second verse - attaboy, Jer! 2-3 he has done some very fluent guitar playing, sounds energetic. Melvin steps up to his big swirling-sweeping piece 3:30, Garcia sounds happy to comp 3:45 behind him. Jerry remembers the next verse, 4:40 ish Melvin provides tasty piano accompaniment with a barrelhouse feel, more after 5.

! s1t04 (1) JG: "We have a little technical problem," as things are being pounded. Melvin hits a little piano thing, JG signals RFTR. FF to s2t01.

! P: s2t01 TWYDTTYD right at end of 5 he puts on his Grateful Dead guitar, wahh-ing in a way that was very uncommon for JGB. Long vocal piece with the ladies out front, him emphasizing behind.

! P: s2t02 Maker John is doing some bowing-type stuff at the very start. Overt religiosity. @ 0354 "oh my body is bent and broken" with feeling. Fragile stuff, glorious. Big pitch-bendy stuff 6.

! song: "What A Wonderful World" (s2t03): this is the Sam Cooke ("don't know much about history", etc.).

! P: song: "Johnny Too Bad" (s2t04): second live version (9/1/94). He sings it as "one of these days "gonna hear a voice a say come" is JG, instead of "when you hear". I am certainly parsing too finely, his expressive variations were mostly driven by lips, mouth, lungs and brain, but I like it. "Gonna", as a declarative, penetrates more deeply in a probability sense, while the passive "when" leaves some space for at least momentary human delusion and denial, suspending the certainty of the outcome if only for a flash. For ol' Jer, it's gonna happen, And That Right Quick. And Johnny Too Bad, in my mind's eye, ends more The Lord Of The Flies than The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: there is, as the song reminds us repeatedly, no rock. Might as well play some reggae. ^P This has lots of interesting pieces, and credit ol Jer for working it, but the band keeps expecting it to end, and he croaks another go-round. The song is quite repetitive, and that's part of what's so compelling but also challenging about it - huis clos. A for effort, lower for execution.

! P: s2t05 DLG nice to see the ambition. He mumbles first verse. Baldwin sets a fine pocket here. 4 very cool little song-voice piece, set to the weak lungs, allowing him to just not strain. 4:20ff some very plucky plucking. Garcia 4:40ff in a bassier tone, keys are right on it, bass has been inaudible. Heading over 5, it has that worried urgency that an earlier tune with Merl, "She's Got Charisma", also provided in spades. It's a game effort, doesn't knock me out on two listens.

! P: s2t06 "That Lucky Old Sun": As you might imagine with decrepit Jerry, "Lucky Ol' Sun" offers some real possibilities, and he takes especial advantage on "fuss with my woman | toil with my kids | sweat till I'm wrinkled and grey". For book, should probably write Tin Pan Alley up here at the end. Sort of a crossover genre in that it seems to have been whites appropriating and deploying black tropes and affectations - not unlike rock 'n' roll. On the other hand, ol' Gar owns this stuff fully, bringing sincere love and tenderness to the vocal delivery, full of feeling, over a spare band arrangement that lets him play his display a little gentle drop-sparkle string work, too. These tunes can really evoke Garcia's painting of himself and John as old Mission Street players, even from the loftier confines of the Warfield balcony or an 8,500 set amphitheatre on a hot Reno evening.

! P: s2t07 MM I love that Jerry loved this song. At this point, he must have had a real Skinnerian involvement with it, since MM = end of show = nicotine = whatever else. Not that he deprived himself before or during, mind you, but the chance to sit down in a comfy chair and unwind, change your sweaty shirt, soundsl ike a nice prospect, too. So the San Franciscan plays Pete Rowan's paen to another city with a Mission, San Antonio, good music. This version delivers nothing special, and September 10, 1994 goes on its merry way.

2 comments:

  1. Just to nitpick my own clarification (!?), I don't think Tin Pan Alley derives *from* jazz: as far as I know, its rise was more-or-less concurrent with the rise of jazz in early 20th century America, or even earlier. Jazz musicians took some Tin Pan Alley songs either as material to perform or as source material to be stripped down to the chord changes and re-used as a basis for new compositions. I think Russian Lullaby (comp Irving Berlin, 1927) is the only Tin Pan Alley song that Garcia performed the way a jazz musician would have: both a song to perform for its own sake, and as a vehicle for extended improvisation.

    Also, I'm liking your recent thinking re late Garcia. My own feeling is that, by late 94-95, Garcia's physical health problems were increasingly closing off the possibilities for him to creatively work around his limitations (although there were still always chances for the light to shine through). That's one reason I like '93 JGB so much: as far as I know, he was in better health than he was in '91-92 (though I'm not sure about that?) and, while it's a stretch to call it a 'creative renaissance', in '93 he seemed to have found a good balance between what he could no longer do (sing very well, play very fast) and what he could still do very well. I hear it as a pretty sharp contrast with the mid 80's, where it often feels to me like he's trying to blindly plow past his limitations rather than respect them and work with them.

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  2. Yes, we totally agree on middle- vs. late-Garcia.

    On "My own feeling is that, by late 94-95, Garcia's physical health problems were increasingly closing off the possibilities for him to creatively work around his limitations" - I guess I agree. He was still getting pretty creative with the materials at hand, though. The pitch-bending and all that, you are implying, only gets you so far creatively speaking?

    I need to learn more about Tin Pan Alley. I don't really understand it.

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