Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Odes to Joy: Aunt Monk at the Generosity, May 9, 1975

LN jg1975-05-09.aunt-monk.84mins.aud-castelli-motb-0144.107829.flac1644

For a couple of years, the good people at Mouth of the Beast (MOTB) were dropping some ridiculously great and important listening material on the masses. Most important, from the perspective of Garcia on the Side (GOTS) were the Robert Castelli tapes, a handful of recordings made by the gentleman of that name who seemed to find his way into, and record, especially rare and special shows. The most important of these, for me, were a couple of recordings from The Generosity, traveling with dates of February 14, 1975 and May 9, 1975.

The Generosity

My notes tell me that The Generosity was located at 1981 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123 (street view). I frankly do not know much about it beyond that. It is not discussed in Selvin's San Francisco: The Musical History Tour (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996). I don't recall ever having seen ads or calendar listings for it, nor posters nor anything else, quite frankly, except these tapes. Maybe we can get the maestro behind Jerry's Brokendown Palaces to dig up more information!

Aunt Monk

Though the tapes travel with the band name Legion of Mary, I believe it was probably actually Aunt Monk. This is almost certainly true of the Generosity gig dated 2/14/75, since that predates what I reckon to have been the first local usage of the Legion of Mary moniker on March 1-2, 1975. When that tape first emerged, Merl Jr. indicated that Aunt Monk (i.e., Merl Sr.) had a standing gig at the Generosity around that time. The 2/14/75 and 5/9/75 tapes are most definitely of a piece – all instrumental, less oriented toward songs (especially Jerry-centric ones) and more oriented toward long workouts of funk, soul and R&B numbers than even LOM would typically be. As I note below, there are some bass slides that sound utterly unlike John Kahn to my ears, and I have to think that’s Aunt Monk bassist Tony Saunders funking things up.

I have discussed Aunt Monk a few different times. To reiterate, the written record ("Rap-Up's Wrap Up," Oakland Tribune, August 25, 1974, p. 2-RAP) suggests that this band name emerged around August 1974, as I discussed in a post about the Garcia/Saunders/Fierro material that circulates dated “July 21, 1974” and “July 22, 1974” from the Keystone in Berkeley. The first billings I presently show are from the Tuckett Inn in September 1974, continuing well (if sporadically) into 1977.  As indicated in the Trib and my post, it seems that the band (name) replaced The Merl Saunders Band, which had been featured at least in ca. summer 1974 at the Sand Dunes down in the Sunset District, and with which Jerry apparently played with some regularity. I have also recently discovered a June 1, 1975 Aunt Monk w/ Jerry Garcia gig at the Inn of the Beginning in Cotati, which nicely brackets the May 9th date I am contemplating.

GOTS Context

In a recent interview on the Jake Feinberg Show (promoting his new album, "Romancing the Bass"), Tony Saunders has discussed this time period a little bit. The relevant bit starts around 34:35 of the hourlong interview. I transcribe some of it here.

[Garcia] would show up at my Dad and my gigs with Aunt Monk. He was playing little places. He played on Union Street in San Francisco at this place called The Generosity. It was tiny. And he would just show up with his amp in his car, show up, come in and play. He never wanted any money. He just wanted to play. And when you talk about him learning … we played a Stanley Clarke song one night … but the song just went all over the place. And he came up to me and he shook my hand and he said ‘Tony, that was a good one, because I couldn’t just do what I thought that I could do. I couldn’t just play along and every time I went to go, when I felt comfortable, I really liked that. That was a great song.’ And a lot of the songs that they played in Legion of Mary, we played them at first with the Aunt Monk group. And Jerry … he would play them first there, and then he would transpose them over to the groups with my Dad.

When Feinberg asks (@ 35:35) who was in the group, Tony says “At first it was E.W. Wainwright, myself, my Dad and … most of the times Jerry would come sit in and be the guitar player. Another young guitar player, Chris Hayes, who went on to play with Huey Lewis and the News for twenty years.” (As an aside, Tony had earlier said that his first gig with his Dad and Jerry, when he was 18 (ca. 1974) was at the Inn of the Beginning, about which I have written a fair bit [see also the IOTB handbill collection at Chicken on a Unicycle]. I have a speculation about that, but it’ll have to wait for another post.)

Anyway, I love Tony’s description of Garcia’s involvement. “He just wanted to play”, indeed. And what we have on this tape, if not the precise Stanley Clarke song Tony was talking about, is Garcia waaaaayyyyy out on the edge of what he knew and could play. This ain’t “My Funny Valentine”, friends. The final two songs here, are one-offs of the Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream" and Stevie Wonder’s “Love Having You Around”. Wow! These stealth gigs with Merl would be among the last Jerry would ever do. I wouldn’t say this is Jerry’s best playing, but I would say it’s among his most interesting, and certainly among the last times he’d perform publicly utterly without a net.

Well worth a listen. Thank you Robert Castelli, Bob Menke and MOTB crew for getting this stuff out for everyone to hear. Pretty amazing documents of a fleeting phenomenon.

Listening notes ...

MOTB Release: 0144 16/44.1
Release Date: 2010-05-19
Band: Legion Of Mary
Date: 1975-05-09 (Friday)
Venue: The Generosity
Location: San Francisco, CA
Analog Audience Source: Aud Master Cassettes (MAC)
Medium Stock Brands: MAC = 2 x Maxell UD C90'S
Analog Lineage: Sony ECM 270's => Sony TC 152 >> MAC
Analog Sound Preservation: MAC >> Nakamichi CR7a => Korg MR-1000 >> DSF [1-bit 5.6448 MHz Stereo] >> Korg MR-1000 => Korg AudioGate >> WAV [24/96]
Taped By: Robert Castelli
Transfer By: Bob Menke
Mastering By: Derek McCabe

(6 tracks, 83:51)
t01: ... When I Die [11:59] [0:18] %
t02: noodling [0:34], Little Bit Of Righteousness [15:07] %
t03: Little Sunflower ... [18:53] %
t04: ... Wondering Why [2:29] [0:10] %
t05: noodling [0:38], Nica's Dream [18:38] [0:16] %
t06: Love Having You Around/ [14:45]

! Band: Aunt Monk
! lineup: Merl Saunders - keyboards;
! lineup: Martin Fierro - saxophone, flute;
! lineup: Tony Saunders - el-bass [confirmed];
! lineup: Bob Stellar - drums;
! guest: Jerry Garcia - el-g;


! 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.

! Jerrybase:

! db: (this source).

! This show is completely unknown except for this tape, which came into the light via the efforts of Bob Menke and the MOTB crew in the first half of 2010. Thanks to Rob Castelli for recording and sharing this, to Menke for his tireless work on behalf of the recordings, and the MOTB recordings for making it sing and getting it out to us, the masses. It is historically fascinating. I suspect that the band is actually "Aunt Monk", which was Merl's band of the time, with a regular gig at the Generosity [confirmed]. See also 2/14/75 for another instance of what I believe to be this band at the same venue. The material is more oriented toward long instrumental workouts of soul-funk-R&B numbers than the Garcia/Saunders aggregation, which featured more (i.e., more than no) Garcia vocals. This is not Jerry's band ... he is just a player. Who knows if they even have vocal mics? The performances are loose and out there, the setlists are fascinating (this one includes Garcia's only known engagements with the songs "Nica's Dream" and "Love Having You Around"), and the whole vibe of this is really special. It would not be long before Garcia could no longer play a stealth club gig (or, in any case, would no longer do so). Indeed, it's hard to think of any at all after about this point in time.

! personnel: Tony Saunders has confirmed that he is playing bass and Bob Stellar is on drums.

! R: t01 When I Die enters in progress

! R: t01 fade down/return @ 0:56

! P: t01 @ 8:30 ish Jerry sounds like he's doing a little Dancing in the Streets thing. Still/again @ 9:20ish.

! personnel: based on the bass work being done t01 @ 3:50-4:42, I am concluding that this is not John Kahn. I have never heard Kahn do those little funk slides in there. This is probably Tony Saunders playing bass.

! R: t02 fade to splice @ 0:49, undetermined amount missing, possibly substantial; fade down splice/return @ 6:07;

! P: t02 LBOR Garcia is raunching and tearing it up, e.g., in the 6-min mark. Indeed, this is some of the free-est Garcia playing of 1975, I think. Vigorous, hot, engaged, creative. Very, very nice.

! R: t02 fade down splice/return @ 9:36

! P: t03 Martin plays an Eleanor Rigby quote @ 4:35

! R: t03 Little Sunflower fades out

! R: t04 Wondering Why is fragmentary

! R: t05 splice @ 1:34

! song: Nica's Dream (t05). This is the Horace Silver composition, done by all kinds of people. Here's a nice clean (and hot-as-shit) take from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, The Jazz Messengers (1956): This track is not obscure, but there are a lot of possibilities from within the jazz canon, and there's always more to hear and learn! It was first labeled simply "untitled 19750509a". Then etree user diethylether proposed on 8/27/2011 "I'm fairly convinced that untitled 19750509a is 'Bahia' by Ary Barroso. Compare it to the the version that Aunt Monk/Merl recorded on their 1976 album You Can Leave Your Hat On (Fantasy 9503, June 1976) ...  the arrangement is similar, though on this LoM recording Fierro is playing the melody where Merl plays it on the album. The break between the original groove leading into a more swinging section at the chorus is another point of similarity." At some point I listened closely, did some A-B comparison, to check this thesis, and came away saying "I have confirmed that this is Ary Barroso's 'Bahia, sometimes also written 'Baia'." Yet now (2/18/2013), a knowledgeable anonymous commenter has indicated that it's "Nica's Dream", and I agree. Diethylether agrees. We all want to get it right, and it's wonderful when more knowledgeable folks chime in. Thank you! So, for those keeping score at home, this is the third and hopefully final appellation for this track, which is a singleton performance of the song.

! setlist: t06 was originally labeled "untitled 19750509b", but DNC user Santos L. Halper proposed, and A-B comparison confirms, that this is an instrumental of "Love Having You Around", the first track on Stevie Wonder's 1972 album "Music of My Mind" (DNC Garcia Folder, Aug 8, 2011 10:55 am (#39795 ***39796)).

! R: t06 Love Having You Around fade/return @ 9:45; fades out as ending.


  1. Actually, untitled 19750509a is Nica's Dream by Horace Silver. I am absolutely certain about this.

  2. Ooooh, thank you for your input! I will check that out.

  3. Thanks, Anonymous. I am listening to the Jazz Messengers play "Nica's Dream" right now (a true treat, under any circumstances). And though my ears are demonstrably not to be trusted, it certainly sounds like the same song to me. I can't do an A-B-C comparison of t05, Nica's Dream, and Bahia ... overload. But hopefully someone with reliable ears can not only confirm that it's the Silver tune, but also explain what similarities there are between Nica's Dream and Bahia (beyond the samba beat)!

  4. JGBP has since posted on the venue. In an ideal world, I'd update based on that information. In the real world, here's a breadcrumb for that ideal future:

  5. I'd also update to say that I no longer believe 2/14/75 to have been before the moniker "Legion of Mary" came into usage, since I now believe that to have been in December 1974.

  6. Thanks for the pointer to this show. Simply spellbinding - the groove they lay down. Nick's Dream was amazing. Loved it.

    and on another note, (pun intended) Thanks for this amazing labor of love - this site.



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