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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spork: Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins- Let It Rock

Spork: Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins- Let It Rock: With the possible exception of his work with David Grisman , this first iteration of The Jerry Garcia Band was totally unique because it i...

Reconstruction at the Rainbow – April 11-12, 1979

Probably my last substantial piece for at least three weeks.


A. Background

Once upon a time, twentysomething New Yorker Barry Fey set out to promote rock shows in Chicago and wound up in Denver. Arriving there in 1967, he would have found a town built on stuff coming out of the ground –primarily gas and oil, metals and minerals, and crops-- stuff depending upon stuff coming out of the ground --cows, the relevant industries-- and stuff emanating from stuff growing out of the ground –the smell of the Greeley's stockyards as winter's northerlies come down out of Wyoming. He would also have found an associated superstructure of mores, institutions, and organized violence. Socially, big money gas- and oilmen, deeply filthy roughnecks, miners of all kinds, plus farmers, officials, and secretly-nervous burghers make for a splendid cocktail of piety and sin. He started working out of the old Petroleum Club building, at 16th and Broadway downtown, and eventually he made his pile. Pick your pioneer trope, graft it onto the big-time music business as it played out over four decades in Denver (and hence, America, and hence, the world), drape it on Barry Fey's sometimes-400 lb. frame, and let 'er rip.

Promoters arrange relative risk, and thus prices; they make markets. Garcia could play music, but there's very little evidence that he was ever good at, say, doing paperwork. He had learned a lot from the Dead's record company experiment, and all of the business that preceded and followed it. So he was, in a sense, savvy. He just mostly didn't want to have to hassle the business side of things, and was willing (and could generate the dollars necessary) to pay specialists, to an increasing degree as his earning power and wealth expanded. Insofar as we think the value of Garcia's musical production thereby created, out of whole Pareto-improving cloth, exceeded the number of dollars privately collected, then we see that even the work of promoters can create positive externalities, albeit under the heading of "consumer surplus". Axiomatically, they make the world a better place, a funny thought. Anyway, Fey was that guy for the Dead and Garcia in Denver.

B. Denver Dog

That fateful year of 1967, two weeks before the historic Monterey Pop Festival in June, Fey was promoting preppy rock acts and relatively clean-cut weirdness in our Queen City --nothing as wild as Howard Wales's The Green Men, I don't think—and decided to check out the San Francisco scene, with a view toward promoting a Denver group (Eighth Penny Matter) and figuring "out a way to bring that San Francisco vibe to Denver" (Fey 2011, 20). The twenty-nine year old right-coaster and former Marine was not a hippie, but he was close to that scene and certainly had an eye for good business. With his honeymooning wife, he arranged to meet with Avalon Ballroom impresario Chet Helms at Family Dog Productions, which was apparently looking to franchise to mid-sized western cities such as Denver and Portland [Corry email]. Fey recalls getting dressing in his Penn gear –"blue blazer [almost!], blue shirt, pumpkin and blue tie, gray flannel slacks [and] penny loafers"-- to do some business with the anti-businessman.

The Feys must have splurged on the Deluxe Hippie Cliché package for the occasion. They get the full Chester Helms treatment – meeting on the floor in the center of the room, sitting in the lotus position -oh, for a fly on the while to have been working on its documentary, to have gotten film of Fey in the lotus position-- , a single vase with a single blossom, longhairs "wearing beads, flowers, robes and what looked like bearskin rugs" (Fey 2011, 18-19). Later, trying to fit in, Fey swaps in some Jesus sandals, all else remaining equal. Now he's rockin' grey flannel slacks, blue shirt, pumpkin and blue tie – and sandals. The Summer of Love cliché-o-rama crew was also apparently working that day, because the couple caught a free show in Golden Gate Park ("I think it was either Quicksilver or the Dead" – wasn't it always?), a scene of "the most beautiful example of mass peace and harmony I'd ever seen", and then an unnamed band at the Avalon. He went back to Denver the next day.

Around this time a Denver teenybopper club called The Byrd, at 1601 West Evans Street [map], went belly up. The space had been a supper club called the Sultan's Table, a Whisky-A-Go-Go franchise, and a previous youth set hopbox, The Posh. Fey got a call about the room, in a building owned by attorney Francisco Salazar, who would eventually house his offices there. On September 8, 1967, the Denver Dog opened its doors. Fey served as "Denver liaison for Family Dog Productions", booking the local acts to open for the San Francisco and national bands sent out by Chet and Bob Cohen (Fey 2011, 20). Now, being a Chet Helms Joint never conduced to sound management, stable finances, or long-term success. The Denver outfit (which included Betty Cantor on staff), seems to have been as purebred a Family Dog operation as you'll ever find, shambolic, gleeful, deeply weird, and more than slightly out of control.

It's not all Chester et al.'s fault: Denver ain't San Francisco (though SF wasn't as friendly as you'd think—Family Dog was rousted out of the Avalon before the end of 1968!). Colorado's culture was still more 50s than 60s at the time. (The basic comparison still holds today -- it's Trump Country outside Denver, the college towns, and the resort areas.) Waking into a suburban Denver steak house with some of the talent? "You should have seen the jaws drop. Not only were they gawking at Janis [Joplin], who looked every bit like the hippie rock star she was, there was Chet Helms, who was tall and with those animal skin clothes he wore and the long hair and beard; he looked like Jesus. And of course, big, fat me in my shorts and tennis shoes" (Fey 2011, 23). The Denver establishment, and especially capitalism's sharp end, its particular coercive apparatus, the police and prosecutors, didn't just gawk. It fought back, hard. DPD narcotics squad sergeant John Gray "and his minions relentlessly harassed the bands … the patrons, and especially the Dog management" (Parker 2013). Apparently the Dead took a bust in their hotel (Fey 2011, 23), foreshadowing their much more famous bust the next month at 710 Ashbury. Faced with these very hot and porky headwinds, "Chet and the Dog folks were forced to split town sometime in January/February '68" (Parker 2013).[2]

C. Fey Businessman

The Denver Dog went up like a Technicolor gusher, but Barry Fey made his bones with it and The Dog, the successor operation he ran out of the same room for another four months (Parker 2013). Unlike Chet (the comparison isn't fair to either), he was just a great businessman. If he was the anti-Chet, he was like another great businessman, also one of his competitors and nemeses (charting at #2 on Fey's list of pricks [Fey 2011, 114]): Successful San Francisco (then world) impresario Bill Graham.[3] Both New Yorkers who made it big out west, each built his thing brick by brick. He had to fight, cajole, prod, probably bribe, and perhaps even win over city forces antithetical to a robust musical entertainment industry inviting ascots at one extreme and spittoons on the other. Like Graham, Fey had to fight fellow promoters who were constantly pressuring his turf, sallying and checking his defenses in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Denver itself.

Both of these guys were anti-hippies, but not anti-hippie. Fey: "I was kind of a narrow-minded Hawk when I moved to Denver in 1967. I'd see these real pretty girls with these hippies, these ugly guys, and wonder, 'What don't I know?' But, after I went to San Francisco later that year and experienced Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love, I was adopting a more tolerant view" (Fey 2011, 160). He almost certainly had different pharmacological tastes from, say, the Family Dog crowd. His drugs of choice seem to have been food, soda pop, and maybe cocaine. He partied like, well, a rock star, with many of the very biggest stars of his time (Stones, Who, etc.). But it seems like he mostly avoided partaking of anything that would get in the way of balancing the books at the end of the night. "I was the only one who wasn't dropping acid," he said of the early days (Fey 2011, 27). Sounds a lot like Bill.

And so he carved out the middle of the country as his territory, enjoying remarkable success given that monopolies, exhibiting as they do what the economists call "positive returns to scale", tend to like to expand – and he had regional ones on either side. Hemmed in by Graham to the west and Scher to the east, Fey could have been a road apple, like Poland ground up between the German Reich and the Russian bear, around the year of Fey's birth as it had ever been. But he made it work, promoting some of the biggest shows of the time over a forty-year career.

II. Side-Tripping at the Rainbow

If, in a Deadcentric cosmology Fey was Graham, booking the area's arenas, rinks, and stadiums, in the Garciaverse he played the Front Range Freddie Herrera, fulfilling the same make-business-easy-on-Garcia functions around his side gigs. I don't know all of the clubs that Fey was involved with, though JGBP mentions the legendary Ebbets Field (1020 15th Street, Denver, CO, 80202 [map].[4] His autobiography mostly focuses on the big money gigs. Regardless, in early 1979 Fey and partner Chuck Morris opened the Rainbow Music Hall at 6358 East Evans Avenue [map].

It sounds like a funky room – the building had housed a three-screen cineplex, but when Fey took it over in early 1979 he knocked out the walls and created an oblong oddity, none of the estimated 1,300 seats of which was more than 70' from stage[JGBP]. I think I have heard that the hall's steep stageward cant put the audience somewhat on top of the performers. The location looks really marginal, though I confess I don't know it; it looks pretty far southeast of downtown and even three miles due east from the University of Denver ("DU", in the regional patois, as the University of Colorado is "CU").

Garcia first played the Rainbow three months after it opened, in the shows I am narrating here. JGBP's Garcia-at-the-Rainbow list looks a little iffy to me, so I'll give my list and annotate questions around slips.

·        4/11/79 Early and late shows Reconstruction
·        4/12/79 Early and late shows Reconstruction
·        4/13/79 Reconstruction—I believe this did not happen. See below.
·        4/22/79 Reconstruction—No idea where this comes from, but the Dead played Spartan Stadium at San José State this date.
·        7/14/79 ReconstructionCANCELED (! Ref: "Jerry Garcia Ill, Shows Canceled," Denver Post, July 13, 1979, p. 62). Note that he was not too ill to try to record some stuff at Club Front ("Jack-A-Roe" from the Beyond Description box set).
·        11/19/81 Jerry Garcia Band
·        11/20/81 Jerry Garcia Band-- No idea where this comes from, but I am doubtful.
·        5/20/83 (early, late) Jerry Garcia Band
·        5/21/83 Jerry Garcia Band
·        5/23/85 early and late shows Acoustic w/ John Kahn

The history of Denver, Colorado is of course replete with colorful characters, most notably in the present context Beat Muse and Merry Prankster Neal Cassady. As ever, during Fey's era Denver intermediated the economic geography of rock, a recent manifestation of a process beginning with westward expansion. I need to learn more about how the Transcontinental Railroad ran through Cheyenne rather than Denver, and how it has overcome the corresponding disadvantage of being off-the-path in the broader sense to grow larger than it. I suspect silver and gold. (Can anyone recommend a key book?) Anyway, it's a linchpin in the linchpin belt binding the US together across the middle.

In the Side Trips sense Denver is small in magnitude. The Dead came pretty regularly, but the Side Trips rarely did – summed up by what I list for the Rainbow above. It's probably on a par with San Diego [JGMF], such that, partly as a result of the dumb, off-the-path infrequency of Garcia's visits, tapes tend to be either missing entirely (the 5/23/85 Garcia-Kahn show, for example) or only sporadically and confusingly present (e.g., these Reconstruction shows). That makes it interesting, a little mysterious, of course.

But the most important thing about Denver for my work here is that it packs an inferential punch.

We can see very clearly, in Fey, the Garcia enterprise's taste for competent, reliable promoters, and its revealed preference for long-term relationships. Freddie fit the bill for local club gigs through '87, then Bill Graham, augmenting his long and eventually locally monopolistic relationship with the Dead; John Scher, from his first base in Passaic, eventually ran all of the Dead's business east of the Rockies, sometimes with and sometimes supplanting venerable east coast promoters such as Don Law in Boston and Ron Delsener in NYC. Fey was Garcia's man in Denver. So, blogging about Reconstruction at the Rainbow can tell us some things about not only the Garciaverse, but also, say, the Grateful Dead in 1991, when the band was rock's #1 concert earner, and in which the only guy besides Graham and Scher who got a topline taste was one Barry Fey.

We also get some good spatial generalizations, i.e., some insight into out-of-town gigs. Most directly, Denver is "like" lots of other places. People sometimes think of it as practically a mountain resort town, à la Vail, Aspen, Park City, Jackson, really rarefied air. But it's not – it's a foot-of-the-mountain town, for sure, but it's also the last plains city, making it like its I-70 neighbors Kansas City and St. Louis; it sounds some of the Indian and Spanish echoes of Cheyenne and Albuquerque; and it's a western town, like Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Reno and San Francisco, all hosts to gold and silver rushes over the years. Insofar as it is representative of these places, it tells us about quite a swath of territory, everything west of the Mississippi around the country's Base Line. But even more importantly that relentless homogenizer, capitalism, often works to reduce the importance of place, and, in all kinds of senses, but especially the market sense, Denver is "like" every other mid-sized city in the country in the market sense, with its urban, suburban and college bars, clubs, theaters, arenas and stadiums.

In short, lessons from Denver generalize – they "travel", in the lingo.

III. Front Range Reconstruction

On April 11-12, 1979, Reconstruction played the only out-of-state gigs of its eight-month history, at Barry Fey's Rainbow Music Hall in Denver. Let me first clear up some metadata issues around these shows, then just drop some thoughts on the music.

A. Metadata

I am working primarily from a listing, an ad, a review, and a bunch of tape. On this last, I now hold three distinct filesets of April '79 Reconstruction at the Rainbow material. The tapes, as is so often the case, yield some gold nuggets of sound and color, but also track all kinds of human failure to communicate, confusion and conjecture. Right up my alley, so I am working from the following:
1.       "4/11/79 early and late shows", shnid-10140. By my system, this is jg1979-04-11.recon.early-late.aud-unk-jupille.10140.shn2flac [source1];
2.       "4/12/79 early and partial late shows", noshnid; jg1979-04-12.recon.early-partlate.aud.xxxxxx.flac1644 [source2];
3.       4/12/79 late show, circulated as "4/13/79", shnid-126161, jg1979-04-12.recon.late.sbd.126161.flac2448 [source3].
If you want to listen to Reconstruction at the Rainbow, I'd direct you to the last of these, which derives from a cassette copy of master soundboard cassettes made by a Rainbow employee for a visiting Deadhead later in the year. It's a very good recording of a good show. The other tapes vary in quality between OK and rotten-sounding. All of them, including the cleanly-provenanced soundboard tape, bear incorrect (as that tape does) or questionable metadata. Let me pin them down following Archimedes rather than Chronos.

1. source3 is the 4/12/79 Late Show

The source 3 board tape only emerged into the digital realm within the last year or two labeled 4/13/79. But I am about 95% sure it's the 4/12/79 late show. Why?

a.       I have seen the Garcia office's gig folder for these shows (though I did not have time to look at the actual contracts), and it lists April 11-12.
b.      The ad, listing, and review are all very clear that shows are on Wednesday and Thursday, the 11th and 12th.
c.       The ad tips David Bromberg and John McEuen at the Rainbow on Friday the 13th and Saturday. It's possible that Bromberg and McEuen canceled and Garcia filled in, but highly unlikely. Return tickets would have been booked in advance, and they almost certainly would have had Jerry coming home right after the scheduled gigs. Things were highly routinized by this time – Sue Stephens maintained beautiful tour itineraries with *all* of the key information, great traveling documents – and return tickets had certainly been arranged. We know from years' of consistent evidence that Garcia almost always came back the day after the tour ended.
d.      Reconstruction was booked Saturday and Sunday at Keystone – its first Saturday in front of the *real* home crowd (despite already being together, in at least some sense, for ten weeks). That doesn't rule out a Saturday in Denver, of course, but it makes it less likely.
e.      I have an old fileset dated 4/12/79 (source2 in my list above) which includes the first two songs from this gig, but from an audience recording. It's a tiny fragment, but triangulation is never to be scoffed at.
f.        We know the provenance of the tape is from the Rainbow soundman, with two subsidiary consequences.
                                 i.            While in the Garciaverse Betty or whomever labeled tapes based on when the gig started, it's perfectly possible that the Rainbow guy labeled it 4/13 once the night was through.
                               ii.            It's also possible he had messy handwriting and his 2 looked like a 3.

In short, there is no evidence, where there should have been, of a Reconstruction gig at the Rainbow on 4/13/79 (points a and b). A putative 4/13/79 Reconstruction gig is strictly contradicted by the ad, and other factors augur against it (points c and d). There is a tiny piece of convergent validation via an alternate piece of tape (point e). Finally, "outside" tapes might not have been labeled in the ways we have become so accustomed to as practiced by Bear, Betty and all of the rest (point f).

The fact that this has emerged labeled 4/13/79 on a tape with such clean provenance is troubling, but I think I have dispensed with it. Perhaps even less troubling, because tape labels are so unreliable, but also richly illustrative of the shit that can happen around metadata –again, because tape labels are so unreliable—is the fact that this same set of material circulates in degraded form as 4/12/79a. In other words, it's also found on source2. This tells us that the Rainbow crew member and/or the source of this 1st gen tape also made other copies, and then supergenerated copies somewhere down one or both of those paths landed in the digital realm. And why not? Soundboard tape of Reconstruction was unheard of prior to the arrival of the Betty Boards in 1986-1987 – even audience tape was hard to come by. So a complete Reconstruction set, from a master soundboard cassette, was a real gem, if you're into that sort of thing. In fact, I am maybe more surprised that it didn't circulate more widely, or end up in the digital realm in better shape far earlier than it did.

2. source2 supplies 4/12/79

If source3 is 4/12/79b, I am inclined to think that the source2 material is 4/12/79, since it's partly overlapping. source2, then, primarily supplies 4/12/79a. If that's correct, we have the whole Thursday show, complete.

3. source1 supplies 4/11/79b

source1's "4/11/79 early show" is a degraded copy of the 4/12/79 early show just discussed from source2. (Isn't this fun?) But source1's "4/11/79 late show" embodies material distinct from what I have determined to be either of the sets from the next night. So, it must be one of the Wednesday night sets, and we can start the bidding at the late set, since that's what the tape says (any port in a storm, don't y'know).

The Wednesday night show reviewer (Brown 1979) doesn't mention whether he saw the 7 PM or 10 PM show. But given that his review was published the next day I have to figure it was the early show. He probably doesn't know most of the tunes, but he names three songs, two sung by Jerry and one an FM radio staple: Jimmy Cliff's "Struggling Man", the blues "It's Too Late", and, as an encore, an instrumental version of the Doobies' "Long Train Runnin'". Only the first of these appears on the distinctive fileset. Furthermore, Garcia would typically sing only one blues per show with Reconstruction, which would have been "It's Too Late" in the early show, whereas the "late show" fileset contains a "Someday Baby". So, while it's possible that the fileset is just missing the two songs that Brown mentions that it lacks, this seems very unlikely.

Accordingly, source1's distinctive material probably really is what it purports to be, the Wednesday, 4/11/79 10 PM show.

4. In sum on the metadata

I feel reasonably confident that I have pinned down all four Reconstruction at the Rainbow sets with some degree of precision. For the Wednesday, April 11, 7 PM set we have the Brown review and no tape. For the other three sets, we have tape but no review. In lieu of a proper review, I'll gather up some listening notes – you get what you pay for.

B. Some Set-by-Set Notes


Brown begins by trotting out the hostile-to-indifferent critic's modal knock on Garcia shows, his adoring fans, cultishly welcoming their "guru-guitarist". It's true that a lot of frothing-at-the-mouth Deadheads could be found wherever Garcia was playing, and they could be annoying; Schadenfraude could lead the disinterested critic to laugh over their failed calls for that cocaine song, their never-unfurled (does that make them forever "furled") twirls around a spacy Dark Star that wasn't. "This band isn't into jamming. It's all rehearsed and arranged," Kahn explained. The critic says that "the Denver audience had a hard time accepting Garcia's new role as a neo-George Benson guitarist left to battle synthesizers and horn arrangements". In short, the review suggests, Garcia should stick to what he knows and what his fans want, and should leave aside this "mediocre jazz unit".


I note Garcia doing some good listening and some stellar playing. Here are brief listening note excerpts. The first comes from the first song of the night ("Get Up And Dance"), in which I find Garcia really listening to Merl, and John playing some of the best music of his life.
Garcia singing harmonies right up front, then steps into some KILLER guitar work 2:44ff. Wailing over 3, very fluent and fluid playing. Man, he sounds great. See my notes in the R field about the Jerrcentric recording – great // to him just plucking, too. 8:20ish Merl signals return to the GUAD theme. Garcia hears it, is listening, and sprints to the corner, meeting Merl on the '1'. Nice. The rest of the band is on it just behind, but tastefully. Great band. John Kahn really played with Reconstruction.
The second comes from one of my favorite Reconstruction-only Side Trips tunes, "Nessa", culminating in some context.
Amazing, amazing, amazing to hear Garcia play this song. Wow. Neumeister is playing killer lead trombone, Garcia is comp'ing, this tape is right in Jerry's monitor, so we hear a lot of guitar, but perfectly supporting the trombone, which is shredding. I have heard a good fair bit of trombone, and Neumeister is incredible. Jerry steps up for a big solo over 4 and he is playing this patiently and intently, in perfect mastery of the chart, though I am about 99.9% certain he wasn't using one. Oh my goodness, right over 5 Jerry hits some hard-won notes, then signals he's ready to step back, Gaylord Birch is hitting the shit out of the skins, around 5:30 Rev nudges his head, so over 6 he can be leading some turns. Garcia, loud on this tape, is strumming well, a killer rhythm guitar player in this jazzy Latin space. It's a good far out tune. Merl steps up 7:23, but he's not loud enough. I don't know if this is PA issue, how Jerry monitored things (which would be telling, although I would be surprised he'd have John so low), whether Merl just has himself turned down, or what. Occam probably says it involves the technicalities of sound (re) production, no small things, they. John steps forward 9:11. @ 9:23 "Yeah John!" Note that these Denver heads know John by name. Now, these could be Bay Area heads (or New Jersey – see Brown 1979) heads just in town, just happened to have deck, mics, and fresh tape and batteries -- Deadheads visiting friends, maybe-- they'd know, too. Whatever, tip o' the hat to the Denver scene.
Note (2) finds Ron Stallings (I think?) mic-checking … "Denver, Denver".


I mentioned the "Another Star" from this show in "Risky Reconstruction". Here let me emphasize Jerry as a supporting player, working with John behind Merl and the horns, and as a good old fashioned guitarslinger shredding some ear drums, on Nina Simone's "Do I Move You?":
Garcia's guitar work in the 3-minute range is nothing short of spectacular. The crowd is yelling, stunned. laughing as Garcia winds down his piece with a big dig @ 4:04, chunking big ugly chords for the sax and keys to work over, he's still pretty loud and they aren't very. 4:42 Merl steps up to a synth solo. Garcia is playing beautifully in support, doing some unwinding runs while Merl does his thing. Jerry and John locked in with each other. At 6:15 Garcia is again just playing wonderfully. Listen to how high on the neck he is, searing at 6:39! Putting some raunch on it 6:55 over 7. Working well with the horns, a little more syncopation in this piece than previously. They drop back to the verse very nicely around 7:30.

Hearing Garcia play "What You Won't Do For Love" just tickles me:
This is so lovely. Jerry is playing very carefully and sounds reasonably well-rehearsed. The crowd can occasionally be heard exclaiming with glad surprise at hearing this deep groove. @ 3:11 Neumeister takes the first solo. The arrangement is really tight and everyone plays it nice and tight, too, nice and close, warming up. Jerry is very fluid and fluent, he's clearly been running lots of scales at home and hanging around Front Street and John's place and wherever.
IV. Conclusion

Reconstruction at the Rainbow is exactly how spring 1979 felt. Tight t-shirts, feathered hair, multiracial groups with big flared pant bottoms, glittery lettering, Corvettes, white dudes rocking curlyfros, disco balls, champagne and cocaine. Denver's on another energy boom (oil is skyrocketing, gas is up), skyscrapers not just soaking in the blue, but also ground- and society- scrapers, replacing  turn-of-the-century watering holes, cathouses, flophouses (not necessarily separate spaces, natch), and markets and their (sometimes vintage turn-of-the-century) Irish, Italian, German, Swedish, Slovakian, Mexican, Native and Other occupants; ten gallon hats, rhinestone boots and blow at $20 a line (Lindsay 1979) replacing newsboy caps, miner's grit and homebrew gin at 5 cents a shot. It'd crash soon, but meantime April 13, 1979, chilly day in Denver down at the Rainbow, would not have been a bad time and place to spend an evening with Reconstruction.

REFERENCES and NOTES:

! tape: I now hold three distinct filesets of April '79 Reconstruction at the Rainbow material. The tapes, as is so often the case, yield some gold nuggets of sound and color, but also track all kinds of human failure to communicate, confusion and conjecture. Right up my alley, so I am working from the following:
4.       "4/11/79 early and late shows", shnid-10140. By my system, this is jg1979-04-11.recon.early-late.aud-unk-jupille.10140.shn2flac.
5.       "4/12/79 early and partial late shows", noshnid; jg1979-04-12.recon.early-partlate.aud.xxxxxx.flac1644.
6.       4/12/79 late show, circulated as "4/13/79", shnid-126161, jg1979-04-12.recon.late.sbd.126161.flac2448.
! JGC: 4/11/79a, 4/11/79b, 4/12/79a, 4/12/79b, "4/13/79" [believed spurious]
! listing: Denver Post, April 11, 1979, p. 40.
! ad: Boulder Daily Camera, April 8, 1979, p. 57.
! review: Brown, G. 1979. Reconstruction Gig Not From Dead Catalog. Denver Post, April 12, 1979, p. 56.
! venue: JGBP. 2012. Rainbow Music Hall, East Evans Avenue and South Monaco Parkway, Denver, Colorado. Jerry's Brokendown Palaces, October 29, 2012, URL http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/10/rainbow-music-hall-east-evans-avenue.html, consulted 11/17/2014.
! ref: Fey, Barry, with Steve Alexander and Rich Wolfe. 2011. Backstage Past. Forewords by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne and by Pete Townshend [sic]. Lone Wolfe Press.
! ref: Lindsey, Robert. 1979. Upper-Income Users Spur Cocaine Dealing. New York Times, September 5, 1979, p. A17.
! ref: Parker, Jim. 2013. The Family Dog – 12/31/67, Denver, CO, U.S.A. Mild Equator, URL http://mildequator.com/performancehistory/concertinfo/1967/671231.html, consulted 11/30/2014.

APPENDIX: LISTENING NOTES

~~

Reconstruction
Rainbow Music Hall
6358 East Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80222
April 11, 1979 (Wednesday) - late show, 10 PM
aud shnid-10140 shn2flac

--late show (11 tracks, 75:14)--
l-t01. Get Up And Dance [10:32] [0:02] % dead air [0:02]
l-t02. //Nessa [#10:51] ->
l-t03. Drum solo [1:24] ->
l-t04. Nessa [1:00] [0:04]
l-t05. Strugglin' Man [6:31] [0:03]
l-t06. //Soul// Roach [#13:#21] [0:03]
l-t07. //I Just Want To Stop [#4:36] [0:03]
l-t08. Someday Baby [8:28] [0:07]
l-t09. //Another Star [#10:33] [0:05]
l-t10. band introductions (2) [0:44]
l-t11. Make It Better [6:27] [0:10]

! ACT1: Reconstruction (January 30, 1979 - September 22, 1979)
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: Merl Saunders - keyboards, synthesizers, vocals;
! lineup: Ron Stallings - saxophone, vocals;
! lineup: Ed Neumeister - trombone;
! lineup: Gaylord Birch - drums, vocals.

JGMF

! R: symbols

! meta: Having determined that the putative early set was actually the 4/12/79 early set, I only include the distinct late show material here. Below you may find remnants of a time when these notes dealt with both 4/11/79 shows - ignore them.

! data: JGC URL http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1979-04-11-rainbow-music-hall-denver-co-2/.

! db: http://db.etree.org/shn/10140 (this fileset)

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

! venue: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/10/rainbow-music-hall-east-evans-avenue.html;

! listing: Denver Post, April 11, 1979, p. 40;

! ad: Boulder Daily Camera, April 8, 1979, p. 57;

! R: lineage: MAC > 3CD > EAC > SHN" Final extraction using EAC, tracking using CDWave, and .shn encoding by Joe Jupille. Sector boundaries verified using shntool. JGMF shn2flac 11/16/2014.

! note (1): I will not generally address myself with the early show fileset. Though only one lineage attached the whole "4/11/79" set of material, instead of an aud the early show is a degraded copy of the same master that I have also received as 4/12/79 (an old shn set, currently jg1979-04-12.recon.early-partlate.aud.xxxxxx.flac1644), which is the same material that I have determined, via sbd tape and deductions, to be 4/12/79b. I have to analyze a few more things before I can take a position on all of it. In terms of my "R" category, note that this runs considerably slower than the less-generated tape. I trust that tape more than this one, but someone who can hear pitch should probably check both tapes.

! R: earlier note says *For Completists Only, a rough recording*. This is not entirely untrue. Let's just say the master and its creation must have been extremely ambient. You feel this tape in the outer registers. And then it's get that extra treadwear of a few extra generations on it.

! R: seeder notes: late show: Most tunes cut in w/o much missing. Normalized to 98% using EAC's process wave function.

! R: l-t01: the horns are a little buried and Garcia's guitar is way forward in the mix. Since these people were  yelling for Jerry, all around the taper, I take it we are Jerryside, and pretty close at that. Merl is also buried, which is unfortunate. It's pretty much all Jerry right now in 8, even though he's just comp'ing. Levels drop @ ca. 5:35.

! P: l-t01: GUAD Garcia singing harmonies right up front, then steps into some KILLER guitar work 2:44ff. Wailing over 3, very fluent and fluid playing. Man, he sounds great. See my notes in the R field about the Jerrcentric recording - great to him just plucking, too. 8:20ish Merl signals return to the GUAD theme. Garcia hears it, is listening, and sprints to the corner, meeting Merl on the '1'. Nice. The rest of the band is on it just behind, but tastefully. Great band. John kahn really played with Reconstruction.

! band: Reconstruction: Here's a hypothesis: As Jerry lost hope after the commercial failure of Cats Under The Stars, John Kahn lost hope when Reconstruction never took hold.

! P: l-t02-l-204: Nessa: Amazing, amazing, amazing to hear Garcia play this song. Wow. Neumeister is playing killer lead trombone, Garcia is comp'ing, t his tape is right in Jerry's monitor, so we hear a lot of guitar, but perfectly supporting the trombone, which is shredding. I heave heard a good fair bit of trombone, and Neumeister is incredible. Jerry steps up for a big solo over 4 and he is playing this patiently and intently, in perfect master of the chart, though I am about 99.9% certain he wasn't using one. Oh my goodness, right over 5 Jerry hits some hard-won notes, then signals he's ready to step back, Gaylord Birch is hitting thie shit out of the skins, around 5:30 Rev nudges his head, so over 6 he can be leading some turns. Garcia, loud this tape, is strumming well, a killer rhhythm guitar player in this jazzy Latin space. It's a good far out tune. Merl steps up 7:23, but he's not loud enough. I don't know if this is PA issue, how Jerry monitored things (which would be telling, although I would be surprised he'd have John so low), whether Merl just has himself turned down, or what. Occam probably says it involves the technicalities of sound (re) production, no small things, they. John steps forward 9:11. @ 9:23 "Yeah John!" Note that these Denver heads know John by name. Now, these could be Bay Area heads (or New York) heads just in town, just happened to have their deck, mics, and fresh tape and batteries -- Deadheads visiting friends, maybe-- they'd know, too. Whatever, tip o' the hat to the Denver scene. If I were tracking this, I might want to track in that l-t02 9:11-10:52, i.e., 1:41 of time is John lead piece. Gaylord Birch's piece is tight as, well, a drum.

! P: l-t05 SM I wasn't listening very closely, but it didn't grab me.

! R: l-t06 Soul Roach cut/splice @ 10:19, then warbling

! P: l-t07 IJWTS, beginning "When I think about those nights in MOntreal", first makes you wonder why a black guy was ever in Canada in the 1970s, until you realize that the  guy singing it, xxx, is white, a fact that his record company tried to disguise to sustain the play the track was getting with black stations and clubs. It's an improbably great song, but in this setting it is a little cringeworthy, Ron Stallings in his white suit and shoes and a nightclub croon. It's a nasty thought, but science can be cruel: I wonder if part of the reason Garcia stood so far back on some numbers in Reconstruction, really obscured by shadow, is that he was, maybe, a teeny-tiny bit embarassed. It's exceptionally interesting to me to hear Garcia playing a contemporary soul and trying to process the dissonance, but there's no reason you, reader, should subject yourself to it.

! P: l-t09 Another Star is simply wonderful. Merl takes first lead, horns tight. @ 1:20 a trombone run, they are doing nice short pieces, Jerry hinting at and then hitting some scrubbing @ 1:38. Merl another lead piece. I like how they have this arranged. Merl-horns, twice 'round, now 2 Garcia is taking some beautifully fluent lead turns, multilayered longs scales, some dropped chords. Nice run up to 3:30, ut now I'd like to hear something different. He indeed changes it up 3:44, playing the melody of Stevie Wonder's "Another Star"! Man, this was gold for a minute there. Repeats his earlier thing 4:15ish, but then digs in a bigger break 4:22, so that's what he's going to do, halvsies, now 4:45 it's not even sequences, but blended, scales and decay, decaying scales. @ 5:57 Garcia really steps back with some galloping strums, Merl takes some nice leads, I still wish he were higher in the mix, I can barely hear him.

! l-t10 (2) Nice provenance on the tape, Ron Stallings mic-checking "Denver! Denver!", his usual "hello anybody" routine. This is Reconstruction. John Kahn on the bass. Merl Saunders on the organ. Jerry Garcia on guitar. Ron Stallings on tenor sax. Ron Stallings ... Ed Neumeister." Someone else "Gaylord Birch on the drums." Claps your hands, try to get a groove goin' on here, etc.

! l-t10 MIB I like this tune a lot, but they don't quite have the head of the arrangement together.

~~

Reconstruction
Rainbow Music Hall
6358 East Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80222
April 12, 1979 (Thursday) - early show, 7 PM
82 min aud early + partlate

--early show (8 tracks, 61:33)--
e-t01. dead air [0:03] /Make It Better :04-6:06] [0:14] %
e-t02. Linda Chicana [9:32] [0:10] %
e-t03. /I Just Wanna Stop [4:18] (1) [0:08] %
e-t04. /Welcome To The Basement [4:59] -> bass feature [1:41] -> Welcome To The Basement [2:17] [0:08] %
e-t05. /The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game [4:50] [0:08] %
e-t06. Do I Move You? [10:54] [0:04] %
e-t07. Another Star [9:51] [0:06] %
e-t08. Struggling Man [5:59] (2) [0:10] %

--late show (2 tracks, 20:44)--
l-t09. [0:17] What You Won't Do For Love [7:07] (3) [0:32] %
l-t10. Soul Roach [12:42] [0:06] %

! ACT1: Reconstruction (January 30, 1979 - September 22, 1979)
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: Merl Saunders - keyboards, synthesizers, vocals;
! lineup: Ron Stallings - saxophone, vocals;
! lineup: Ed Neumeister - trombone;
! lineup: Gaylord Birch - drums, vocals.

JGMF:

! R: symbols

! meta: shnid-10140 has this same material dated 4/11/79 (though missing IJWTS), but I am pretty sure it's 4/12/79a.

! db: none

! JGC: http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1979-04-12-rainbow-music-hall-denver-co/ (early show); http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1979-04-12-rainbow-music-hall-denver-co-2/ (late show).

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

! venue: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/10/rainbow-music-hall-east-evans-avenue.html;

! listing: Denver Post, April 11, 1979, p. 40;

! ad: Boulder Daily Camera, April 8, 1979, p. 57;

! R: source: unknown tape > ?? > shn > flac1644.

! R: provenance: This material derives from some random shn files I gathered in 2003, just dated 4/12/79 with no early/late designations. I believe that it was the complete early and late shows, but switched from aud to degraded sbd source after "Soul Roach". An old post to DAT-Heads listed "4/12/79 RECONSTRUCTION, early & late, RAINBOW THEATRE-DENVER, CO, AUD REEL > ? > DAT & SBD REEL > ? > DAT." The shns correspond, so I presume there's a DAT gen in my lineage, not that it matters. I have not included the sbd portion here, since it now circulates in much better shape as shnid-xxxxxx (MSC > C).

! R: Recording is decent. Bass isn't really really distinct, and there could be crisper high end, but you can hear pretty much everything. Most tunes clip in, with missing material seeming to range from a note or two to a few seconds. There is some hiss here.

! P: e-t02 Linda Chicana: Ed Neumeister takes the first solo in the 2 range, and it is very good. @ 3:30 Garcia steps up.

! e-t03 (1) Ron Stallings: "Thank you. Ed Neumeister on trombone."

! P: et04 WTTB Garcia is playing some amazing notes as John is chugging through the front of the song. Merl comes in 0:40, nice tone, but things maybe sounds a little pitchy? Garcia takes first solo in 2, and his guitar playing sounds absolutely great.

!P e-t05 THGCBTG is an amazing song choice for Garcia to sing. Such a great song!

! P: e-t06 DIMY Garcia's guitar work in the 3-minute range is nothing short of spectacular. The crowd is yelling, stunned. laughing as Garcia winds down his piece with a big dig @ 4:04, chunking big ugly chords for the sax and keys to work over, he's still pretty loud and they aren't very. 4:42 Merl steps up to a synth solo. Garcia is playing beautifully in support, doing some unwinding runs while Merl does his thing. Jerry and John locked in with each other. At 6:15 Garcia is again just playing wonderfully. Listen to how high on the neck he is, searing at 6:39! Putting some raunch on it 6:55 over 7. Working well with the horns, a little more syncopation in this piece than previously. They drop back to the verse very nicely around 7:30.

! P: e-t07 Another Star - @@ wow. This is such a great composition (Stevie Wonder). Stevie's arrangement makes it a great horn tune, and the horns can set this chart aflame. These guys are killin' it. Garcia jumps in for his solo right around the 2 minute mark, and he is playing like a man possessed -- This is some of the most molten Garcia guitar work you will ever hear. I cannot recommend this strongly enough. I implore you - listen to this! The horns take some nice frontward turns, Merl turns himself up 4:42, Garcia is absolutely shredding, some scrubbing right over the 5, wonderful guitar work. Now he's alternating tones, low to high, breaking out some chunks of tempo. 5:33 he steps into a strong chunka chunka vamp for Merl, who steps forward with some organ lead. Horns now backing Merl, who is spinning it out like a wizard over a crystal ball, all arcing fingers, allowing a little decay in, Merl still out front but Jerry is absolutely pushing him, now steps back a little more 7:15 and Merl drops some more slightly decayed wizardy, like 10 degrees off from center. Horns fronting a few measures I'd like to hear these guys step out more. Garcia harshly scrubbing 8:22 - homey says "check it out". The horn guys really signal the end over 9, Merl answers them and they are back to the straight "Another Star" melody. I bet Jerry's disappointed they are already bringing an end to it. I bet at some point he gave them the old "let's stretch that out even more, man". I am sure they have it charted out, but they are pros and I am sure if we time "Another Star" we'll see it lengthen out over the course of Reconstruction's (too-brief) run.

! setlist: at note (2), it sounds like Ron Stallings says "good night", and you can hear the crowd saying something like "don't leave us!". Then the tape clips, and then when it re-enters in front of WYWDFL there's a lot of excitement in the air. I had first thought these two songs could be an encore, but it now seems pretty clear to me that they are the start of the late show, from the same taper.

! l-t09 (3) band introductions. The band gives a special hoot for Garcia, of course. Things sound nice and energetic and positive.

! P: l-t10 Soul Roach is not particularly to my taste. Jerry starts his feature late 4 over 5, still playing very well.

~~

Reconstruction
Rainbow Music Hall
6358 East Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80222
April 12, 1979 (Thursday) - late show, 10 PM
late show sbd1 shnid-126161 was "4/13/79"

--late show (8 tracks, 87:37)--
--main set (7 tracks, 76:43)--
t01. [0:02] % What You Won't Do For Love [7:29]  (1) [0:29]
t02. [0:08] Soul Roach [13:31] [0:02] % [0:04]
t03. [0:15] Lovely Night For Dancing [12:33]
t04. % Mohican And The Great Spirit [#10:25] % [0:15]
t05. [0:10] Struggling Man [6:26] [0:02] %
t06. Ain't That Loving You? [8:22] [0:18]
t07. [0:58] Long Train Running [14:26] [0:45]
--encore (1 track, 10:54)--
t08. crowd, tuning, talk (2) [1:32], It Ain't No Use [8:54] [0:27] %

! ACT1: Reconstruction (January 30, 1979 - September 22, 1979)
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: Merl Saunders - keyboards, synthesizers, vocals;
! lineup: Ron Stallings - saxophone, vocals;
! lineup: Ed Neumeister - trombone;
! lineup: Gaylord Birch - drums, vocals.

JGMF:

! R: symbols

! JGC: http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1979-04-12-rainbow-music-hall-denver-co-2/

! db: http://etreedb.org/shn/126161, shnid-126161 (this fileset).

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

! venue: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/10/rainbow-music-hall-east-evans-avenue.html;

! listing: Denver Post, April 11, 1979, p. 40;

! ad: Boulder Daily Camera, April 8, 1979, p. 57;

! R: Cassette master (Rainbow employee, TDK SA) > 1st gen cassette (Sony TC 158SD deck, TDK AD stock, August 11, 1979) > unknown process to flac1644.

! R: seeder note: "I recorded this on August 11, 1979 while out for the Red Rocks shows. I was staying with a guy who worked at the Rainbow."

! metadata: this is given as 4/13/79, but I am pretty sure it's the late show from 4/12. First, I have seen the gig folder for these shows (though I did not have time to look at the actual contracts), and it lists April 11-12. Second, the ad and the listing are both very clear that shows are on Wednesday and Thursday, the 11th and 12th. The ad tips David Bromberg and John McEuen at the Rainbow on Friday the 13th and Saturday. A review of the Wednesday show, published on Thursday the 12th, mentions that night's shows. It's possible that they canceled and Garcia filled in, but highly unlikely - he would have had his return tickets home, in all likelihood. That's because, third, the band would play Keystone on Saturday and Sunday. That doesn't rule out a Saturday in Denver, of course, but it makes it more likely. Fourth, we know the provenance of the tape is from the Rainbow soundman and, while, in the Garciaverse Betty or whomever labeled tapes based on when the gig started, it's perfectly possible that the Rainbow guy labeled it 4/13 once the night was through. Fifth, it's also possible he had messy handwriting and his 2 looked like a 3. Sixth, I have an old fileset dated 4/12/79 which includes the first two songs from this gig, but on an audience recording. It's tiny, and undermined further by the fact that the opaque fileset's early show is the same recording as circulates for 4/11, but in neither case does that augur well for it being 4/13. When I combine all of this stuff, I am compelled to conclude, with about 95% confidence, that this must be the Thursday (4/12) late show, scheduled for 10 PM. xxx see final post

! metadata: "What You Won't Do For Love" and "Soul Roach" is a puzzling piece of tape. Here's why. First, it appears here, putatively dated 4/13/79. I have pretty much concluded (see above) that it is rather what we in the Garciaverse would call 4/12/79 late show. I am 95% sure about that. That, in turn, is a very key piece of tape, because of the whistle-clean provenance: the Rainbow sound guy taped it and made a copy for a Deadhead in town for Red Rocks shows in August. Second, the same two songs appear on the aud I currently know as jg1979-04-12.recon.early-partlate.aud.xxxxxx.flac1644 (shns I gathered in 2003 and never processed). There they appear in sequence to be the first two songs after the end of the early set, i.e., the first two songs of the late show. That makes me identify this as the late show, which is what for all the world it sounds like. Third - however - and here's the mildly puzzling part - the taped dated 4/*11*/79, shnid-10140 xxx never mind, see "Reconstruction at the Rainbow".

! P: There's some good vibe and playing here, but I think I have to lean toward what a reviewer of one of these Denver shows suggested, xxx review xxx. It's pretty good. It's not great.

! P: t01 this is so lovely. Jerry is playing very carefully and sounds reasonably well-rehearsed. The crowd can occasionally be heard exclaiming with glad surprise at hearing this deep groove. @ 3:11 Neumeister takes the first solo. The arrangement is really tight and everyone plays it nice and tight, too, nice and close, warming up. Jerry is very fluid and fluent, he's clearly been running lots of scales at home and hanging around Front Street and John's place and wherever. I am sure he'll want to stretch out later (that Long Train Running -> Fast Tone later is hard to ignore and tends to raise expectations. But right now, it's off to a really good start.

! historical: This is exactly how spring 1979 felt, if you can remember it. Tight t-shirts, bralessness, feathered hair, multiracial groups all with big flaired pant bottoms, glittery lettering, corvettes, white dudes rocking curly fros (including the jewfro), disco balls, champagne and cocaine. The spring that budget cuts (including proposition 8) and demographic changes --the postwar blue collar GI Bill folks had raised their families, not yet yuppie 80s commuters to The City and Silicon Valley. Denver's on another energy boom (oil is skyrocketing, gas is up), skyscrapers not just soaking in the blue also ground- and society- scrapers, replacing  turn-of-the-century watering holes, cathouses, flophouses (not necessarily separate spaces, natch), and markets and their (sometimes vintage turn-of-the-century) Irish, Italian, German, Swedish, Slovakian, Mexican, Native and Other occupants. Ten gallon hats, rhinestoned boots and how-much??-blow replacing newsboy caps, miner's grit and homebrew gin at 5 cents a shot. It'd crash soon, but meantime April 13, 1979, chilly day in Denver down at the Rainbow, would not have been a bad time and place to spend an evening with Reconstruction.

! t01 (1) @ 5:35 (during song) Stallings gives Ed Neumeister a shoutout. After song, Gaylord gives Ron Stallings props. Ron Stallings: "Ed Neumeister on trombone. Merl Saunders on organ. Gaylord Birch on drums. John Kahn on the bass. Jerry Garcia on the guitar."

! P: t02 SR not my favorite tune, but Jerry plays a very electric solo ca. 7 min mark. He is playing very well. @ 9:30ff Merl takes a synth solo.

! P: t03 again @ 4:30 JG is wailing pretty nicely.  In  the 6 range Garcia is putting some nice wah on it, very much in the space of contemporary Dead tune "Shakedown Street".

! P: t05 SM good guitar work 4-minute mark. 1979 was a big change in his style, a lot more similar across the two contexts than previously.

! P: t06 Merl is definitely in his Full Cleveland lounge act mode. Jerry walking behind him, definitely has the divorcee's bar feel, some of those plush, dingy, smoky, smoky, sleazy banquetted 1970s lounges, the tables with a particularly indescribable kind of stick. Now this is definitely a more talented group than you'll find at your local smorgie-(or Hofbrau-)near-the-airport, and Garcia's guitar packs a little more punch than your spongy picker. Over the 4-min mark his tone sears pretty deeply. Yow! Merl does some full B3 work through 4 over 5, Jerry and the rhythm section holding it tight for him, horns laying back for the chorus line.

! P: LTR Reverend Ron's first solo starts off-key late 2-min mark. @ 4:30 Stallings soloing hits a Coltrane note, Naima or something. Garcia solo 5:15ff. Neumeister @ 7:55ff.

! setlist: t07 was listed as "Long Train Running -> Fast Tone", but they never play "Fast Tone" here.

! setlist: I am calling IANU an encore, because the tape is continuous over the whole encore trip.

! t08 (2) Ron Stallings: "Yeah, you didn't get enough?" Crowd: "Nooo!" Stallings: "You want some more? Here we come." Yikes.


[1] See Fey 2011 for most of what follows.
[2] Fey (2011, 24) says they split in February.
[3] See Fey 2011, 108-114 for some great Barry Fey-Bill-Graham stories.
[4] Here are more Ebbets data, but have your popup blocker primed and ready.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Zimmy at Sans Souci

Many counter culture luminaries found their way to Sans Souci in those days. On one memorable occasion, Grisman brought Bob Dylan along for a rehearsal at the house. "It was kind of exciting," [Mountain Girl] remembered. "I baked chocolate chip cookies, and they all seemed to be having a rousing good time, playing together in the living room for hours."

I don't think I knew that Zimmy picked with Jerry and Dawg at Sans Souci. Did you?

! ref: Liberatore, Paul. 2013. Lib at Large: Grateful Dead icon Jerry Garcia's first Marin house for sale for nearly $4 million. Marin Independent-Journal, November 1, URL http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_24437404/lib-at-large-grateful-dead-icon-jerry-garcias, consulted 11/29/2014.

Biblical Serendipity Alert

Let's start by recognizing that, insofar as the probability of a given event happening is the product of the individual probabilities of all of the events needed to produce it, we certainly shouldn't be here. Everything is impossible.

It's nonetheless funny when individually improbable streams cross, which is what's happening when we talk about serendipity. It's probably a mere coincidence -- lots of streams are running at any given time, and weird shit happens just by the law of large numbers. But check this out.

Step 1, In the Beginning

1) a fragment a canceled Dead show 9/27/70 becomes an occasion for me to talk about death in the Garciaverse, especially during that period.
2) this leads me to David Crosby; I use the phrase "homeward through the haze";
3) I am reminded that I don't know that song well-enough, nor the Crosby-Nash record Wind on the Water (ABC, 1975) well enough, so awhile ago I put it on and start listening to it. Note that this is maybe the second or third time I will have heard the record (I am not a big Graham Nash, generally), ever.

Step 2, parallel streams

4) in this same space, I am going back through some of Crosby's amazing autobiography (the first one) (Crosby and Gottlieb 1988), mostly scanning some of the Garcia-relevant pages for good research at a distance.
5) because I come across it, I start copying some of Crosby's digressions and thoughts on drugs, which come quite frequently, and with the analytic depth that you'd expect from such a true connoisseur.
6) In a flash, I am thinking about cocaine as a private drug, and I come up with the idea that Jesus gave loaves and fishes to the people, but by the looks of the Last Supper He and the Disciples kept the best stuff for themselves.

Step 3, the weird serendipity.

7) Having referenced loaves and fishes, being fully lapsed but inclining toward precision in referencing and such, I Google "bible verse loaves and fishes". Turns out all four of the gospels use the phrase, but never mind. I maybe look up Bible verses 2-3 times per year. As I am doing it here ...

8) up comes "Howard Through The Haze" over the speakers; and ...

9) it's got bible verses in it.

Weird, huh?

Friday, November 28, 2014

GD cxl 9/27/70 post updated

http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2014/11/gd-92770-san-diego-sports-arena-canceled.html

I have updated pretty substantially. Now, the little tiny fragment presented by a previously unknown canceled Dead show in San Diego is about death. And stuff.

Race Record Dream


Rolling Stone has just posted a little gallery of Garcia's art. Given finity, I will only scratch the surface of the paintings and drawings.

But, since race is one of the threads I am trying to weave through my (amateur!) musicological excursions, and it crossed my screen, I thought I'd reproduce it here.

This is "Race Record Dream": "A representation of a dream that Jerry had in which he and John Kahn played with Robert Johnson in the days when the music of black musicians was sold as 'race records.' Here the three are together in a dreamy cloud with their instruments and a crank record player."

I also love Jerry dreaming himself in a Django Reinhardt/Hot Club kind of look - wow.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game

Footnotes on Blogger

Blogger is so problematic (though I love it for what it does for the price, of course!), I presume to know the answer, but here it is, anyway: if I am composing in Word and pasting into Blogger (seems the only safe thing to do), will it be able to swallow footnotes?
Bonus material: if you check out the URL of this post, it's http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2014/11/footnoes-on-blogger.html - looks like on first save I left out a 't', but then again 'footnoes' may be me telegraphing the expected answers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fantasy-Keystone Cross-Promotion

All Good Things - Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions
I can be a picky consumer, but I tip my hat to the market for the quantity and quality of Garcia music that has come available for purchase. Let's hear it for the price mechanism!

I won't get into detail on the masterful 2004 box All Good Things - Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions [deaddisc], produced for release by James Austin, David Gans and Blair Jackson. It is pretty stunning on every level.

No, I have another, shorter purpose - to note the cross-promotion of Fantasy Records (Berkeley) and Keystone (Berkeley) displayed in the famous matchbook. This is utterly obvious, of course, but I just wanted to put down a marker on it. Win-win, "all good things", indeed! I have one of those matchbooks somewhere around here.

REFERENCES:
! ref: Jackson, Blair. 2004. [liner notes] All Good Things in All Good Time: Revisiting Jerry Garcia's Five Solo Albums. All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions. Rhino Records (R2 78063).

Monday, November 24, 2014

Risky Reconstruction


**massively updated 11/24/2014 11 PM mountain time**
I just tipped my hat to the idea of meso level musical risk in Garcia's side trips. This is the pedantic-even-by-my-high-standards phrasing of the notion that that different bands, qua bands (combinations of players and repertoires), could and did musically challenge Garcia to different degrees. The challenge-comfort continuum provides a nice way to narrate the overall arc Garcia on the side, I'll suggest more broadly. Here I point this lens at Reconstruction.
Reconstruction: End of an Era

John Kahn, for the first time since meeting Garcia, conceived and led his own band in 1979: Reconstruction, a jazz-funk-soul-disco-etc. outfit featuring loud horns and occasionally tight arrangements (Brown 1979; Light 1979). Reconstruction played "sophisticated improvisational jazz with a beat" (Light 1979). I love most of this band's music.
Beyond mostly-good and occasionally-amazing music, though, Reconstruction matters to me as a local high point for the musical challenge embedded in Garcia's 1970s side trips. For several years prior to 1979, after the Nicky Hopkins and, a fortiori, James Booker flameouts, Jerry took refuge in and sought comfort with Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux in the Jerry Garcia Band. This was mostly living room music, if a little loud for the parlor, though things picked up a little before the final collapse. After 1979, after Reconstruction, Jerry and John gradually and codependently softshoe-shuffle away from risk and challenge. Reconstruction, then, presented Garcia with a far greater musical challenge than he got from what preceded or followed it.
But it was more than a local high – its demise also signals the end of a broader era, Garcia's Seventies Side Trips. On my read, John never really recovered the energy he expended through the 70s. Jerry eventually rediscovered some of his old mojo, tackling some challenging stuff from 1990 forward with his newly-reconciled friend, the innovative American musical legend, mandolinist David Grisman. That leaves the 80s, and on that view Reconstruction appears as the storm before the calm, so to speak: Garcia's 1980s side trips provided no sustained musical risks and challenges. On the long view, then, Reconstruction offers an oasis of challenge amid a growing sea of comfort and complacency.
Some Conceptual Notes

Let me clear some conceptual and other ground, starting with my notion of the "meso level". I am operating here, as I like to do, in a world of at least minimally formalized institutions, which left enough of an imprint on paper, tape, memory, and other potentially-observed phenomena that I can sink my teeth into them. "Meso" institutions lie between the big macros (like, say, capitalism) and the tiny micros (what Garcia had for breakfast on any given day). I really have in mind how Garcia arranged his professional life, i.e., mostly, how others such as Merl, John Kahn, managers, etc. etc. arranged his professional life for him.
The meso level is populated by all kinds of interesting institutions, but I most often focus on an entity called a band. In my usage, a band is an institutionalized musical aggregation. Because it's institutionalized, it is in some sense intended by at least some of the people involved. It is intended to arrange (creating or formalizing order) and endure through time -- a "going concern". In this post I will isolate two features of bands: their members and their repertoires.
"Member" is an institutionalized position - it's a role, defined in specific ways, involving strongly ritualized rights and expectations, and so forth. A band member, it is intended, is going to be around, reasonably predictably. Each individual, and emergently in a well-functioning institution, the group as a whole will form expectations about what each and all should be doing. This might be formalized, as in a contract, or it might be completely implicit. A member stands conceptually distinct from a guest, though the messy empirical world doesn't always play along with such idealized types. They are all players, of course, which is the term I find myself using here.
Each player embodies a package of skill, tastes, inclinations, experiences and musical knowledge (leaving aside all of the other human fun we pack in our skins and clothes). I'll call this package an individual's repertoire, the stock of musical material at his or her disposal. Put the individuals together in a band, and these repertoires form a Venn diagram, the core of which is the set of possible stuff they can/want to play together. I don't want to make this too static: since people both can be taught and can forget stuff, repertoires can ebb and flow over time. But out of this possibility set, and probably passing through filters of musical taste and interests, arrangeability, playability, and all of that, bands create a collective repertoire.
So in talking about the side trips' relative "meso level risk", I am really talking about how much each band musically challenged Jerry Garcia, as shaped by who was playing and the material they took on. Unfamiliar and skilled players, on the one hand, and unfamiliar and challenging material, on the other, combine to define the level of risk and challenge posed by a band.
This is distinct from what I might think of as micro level risk and challenge, i.e., at the level of concrete performances. At the micro level he never stopped leaping, finding amazing musical flashes even in the deepest, darkest depths of his rock bottom period (except for maybe 8/26/84!). The frequency of super-high musical attainments ebbed in, let's say, 1984-1986, and so too did their duration, but they kept their upside amplitude (see 5/31/83, for example). (Unfortunately, overall amplitude did increase. I believe it to be axiomatic that if the highs were no higher, and amplitude increased, it must be the case that the lows got lower. Whatever the math, and it has the virtue of being checkable, that last statement is certainly true, empirically.) David Kemper and Melvin Seals could push Garcia in any given moment (if more from the chair than the bench, in my view). But it's nevertheless true that the meso level got really static, especially once JGB #21b took the stage in mid-1983 (see 7/20/83 and 7/21/83). The same players convened, around a relatively invariant repertoire, month after month for more than a decade. They made some amazing music in the moment, but they confronted Garcia with little in the way of sustained musical challenges.
An aside on John Kahn

I don't take John Kahn's perspective nearly often enough, and, following Corry, I'll use the occasion of talking about this band, his band to think a little more about the Mule. He seems to have had real ambitions for Reconstruction. He saw it as a kind of update to the Garcia-Saunders-Kahn-et-al group which had sold (and continues to sell!) so many records for Fantasy. The outfit would be rebuilt, playing some of the stuff that John had picked out for Jerry's 1974 Compliments of Garcia (Round RX 102, June 1974), notwithstanding that the latter hadn't sold enough to make Round Records viable. They throw in more Merl vocals, a beautiful batch of Latin and other jazz, and a bunch of other stuff, and generally play the black sinner music that John loved so much (see my reportorial analysis below). Reconstruction was aptly named, the mixing and mingling of old and new players and materials. Not only momentarily ambitious, John Kahn was also a musical revelation in Reconstruction, playing the best bass of his life (and also "lead eyebrows", according to one account – Brown 1979). Reconstruction was John taking his big chance, and he really gave it his all. "I want it to last," he said in April. "We're a serious band, and I want it to stay together" (Brown 1979).
Garciacentrically, the end of Reconstruction only coincides with the disappearance of meso level musical challenge, I think. That ship had sailed when Cats Under the Stars failed commercially, let's say, sometime in 1978. I doubt he was all that broken up about Reconstruction one way or the other. (Corry narrates a bit tighter Cats -> Reconstruction progression than I do – read him.) But, for John, I think the relationship was causal, that Reconstruction's failure to "take" took John's heart out of it, to some extent. He was never the same after 1979, to my ears, always weaker, while to my taste bass in the rock idiom (and accompanying very, very, very loud electric guitar) absolutely requires power. In short, I am conjecturing that as the commercial failure of Cats Under the Stars was to Jerry –occasion to stop trying—so Reconstruction's quick end was to John.
Birth of Reconstruction

Corry deftly narrated the birth of Reconstruction in his 2011 post "Reconstructing Reconstruction". Re-reading him, I am struck by the idea of the band as an easy way out of the Keith and Donna relationship (I'll discuss Garcia's inability to come clean and provide closure to erstwhile collaborators he's walking away from, in re Merl, more below). Comfort and challenge coexist all too fluidly in life, of course.
I read Corry as still allowing for a possible late 1978 birth of Reconstruction, but I think we should pin it down to January 1979. The Mule spelled it out in a rare contemporary interview which took place between Wednesday sets at the band's only out of state gigs,at Denver's Rainbow Music Hall, April 11-12, 1979. (1) Reconstruction had started earlier in the year. (2) John got Garcia to sign on the dotted line (as if!) after an especially taxing Dead tour. This sounds for all the world like January 1979 in Deadland, a wrecked Donna Jean heading home midstream and, which is worse, an even more wrecked Keith Godchaux staying onboard. (These shows are improbably great, as was known regularly to happen in Deadland, a place that thrived when the tension was productive.) That tour wrapped up January 21 in Detroit and Jerry was presumably home the next day. (3) They practiced for a week, and then started gigging.
To The List!
Lo! Reconstruction's first Listed public gig took place on Tuesday, January 30, 1979 at the Keystone Berkeley. This fits John's timeline to a 'T' – Jerry is home from Dead tour on 1/22, they practice for a week and gig on 1/30. This fits a pattern I believe to have established, that, in the Garciaverse, new bands are broken in on off-nights. Most importantly, tapers Steve Spitalny and John Angus made and circulated a great recording of the show, which is playing as I write this. I don't know what to make of the fact that I have Garcia manifestly playing on this tape, while he was also, manifestly enough, photographed in the City this same date for the Bammie awards (see BAM no. 50, February 16, 1979, p. 30). It seems like the industry party ended early enough for Jerry to cross the Bay Bridge to Berkeley; indeed, by the time they play Ray Charles's "Let's Go Get Stoned", at the tail end of the tape, it sounds quite a bit after hours.
Anyway, I feel reasonably confident about dating the band's public debut to Tuesday, January 30, 1979, and its birth to earlier in the month.
Players

Reconstruction was a jazz sextet. Of greatest magnitude within the Garciaverse, it publicly reunited John and Jerry with Merl Saunders. The few scraps we have about the mid-1975 demise of Legion of Mary (and, thus, of a sustained, nearly five-year Garcia-Saunders-Kahn-et-al collaboration) suggest that Jerry walked away from Merl, or was pushed/dragged away by the Grateful Dead family. This is the key piece of evidence in various Garcia narratives, including that Garcia was cowardly around personal confrontation, and especially the "goodbyes" of breaking up, which he did at some point with every single person in his life except the Dead guys and John Kahn himself. If we imagine the players orbiting the Garciaverse at the time, this looks an awful lot like the Dead and John Kahn winning a struggle for Garcia's soul (and, uncharitably, the lucre it seemed to spawn with only the gentlest priming). From Merl's perspective, it probably looks and feels at least a little bit like a betrayal, maybe less dramatically a run-of-the-mill bullshit move, or perhaps, most mundanely, just a sadness.
If Reconstruction aimed to reconstruct the old Garcia-Saunders-Kahn-et-al players and material for the disco era, reconciliation, to whatever degree it would have been needed, would have been the order of the day. The guys had not been totally estranged, it's true. Though I believe a longstanding Listing of Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders gigging on 11/20/76 to be spurious – that month's Keystone calendar listed the JGB—it is incontrovertible that between Legion and Reconstruction Merl had helped Jerry and John out (or they, him) with some work on Cats, recorded summer 1977 through early 1978. Jerry sitting in with Merl's band at the Shady Grove on October 2-3, 1978 looks like a real breakthrough, both signaling the death throes of the Godchaux-era JGB –it'd go out with a great "So What" on November 3, 1978—and the public re-emergence of Jer and Merl. For all we know, John might have orchestrated, or at least helped facilitate the reunion. As ever, Corry writes it all up, just right; I like his idea that Merl, burned once, was testing Garcia's commitment before exposing himself a second time.
Whatever the case, in John's reconstruction of the old Garcia-Saunders-Kahn-et-al, firming up some of the planking on the jazzy side of the vessel, he naturally enough signed Merl up first, and together they brought in the et al. These included Merl's old bandmate, Gaylord Birch (see Corry), who led the Pointer Sisters' band, including on their profoundly fonky 1975 #1 soul hit "How Long (Betcha Got A Chick On The Side)" [LLD | youtube]. Jerry had played with him at least once before when sitting in with Merl's band at the Keystone in January 1975, tackling a repertoire not unlike Reconstruction's which included one-offs by Marvin Gaye ("What's Going On") and Weather Report's killer jazz-funk fusion "Cucumber Slumber". So, Birch knew John and Merl really well, Jerry a little, and he had some serious chops.
Also entering the fray was John's fellow Tits And Ass Rhythm and Blues Band alumnus and former roommate (LLD), and his and Merl's Bloomfield/"Better Days"-era co-conspirator, longtime Bay Area saxophonist "Reverend" Ron Stallings. I have no documented Stallings-Garcia Shared Stage events, though I think probably played together somewhere on the road that passed first through Heavy Turbulence and then through the Merl Saunders/Aunt Monk aggregations. The Rev, in turn, brought in trombonist Ed Neumeister a few days before the first gig. Neumeister had neither played with nor met Garcia before, and wasn't particularly aware of him even in the more diffuse sense: “I had no idea to be honest the following that Jerry had. I showed up for that first gig and there were wall-to-wall people" (Sforzini 2012). Ahh, the burdens of being Jerry.
Along the way, Garcia had signed on. Corry considers him not a member, but an "an ongoing, if important, guest star for a permanent band." I am not sure it's worth trying to resolve what are really just semantic differences around an ambiguous reality; it's probably enough just to acknowledge them and move on.
Here's how I might code things, with all due indifference to consistency:
! ACT1: Reconstruction (1/30/79-9/22/79)
! lineup: John Kahn – el-bass;
! lineup: Merl Saunders – keyboards, synthesizers, vocals;
! lineup: Ron Stallings – saxophone;
! lineup: Ed Neumeister – trombone;
! lineup: Jerry Garcia – el-g, vocals;
! lineup: Gaylord Birch – drums.

These guys are all monster players. Kahn was at the top of his game, playing fat, strong and aggressive bass. I love Merl's keys and synth work in this period, but what really strikes me is how much his singing has improved since the JGMS/Legion period. He brought some great club groove to the Bill Withers tunes, "Don't It Make It Better" and "Lovely Night For Dancing", for example. Stallings had played with everyone and Gaylord Birch wasa master of deeply timely but highly-styled funk drumming. The Pointer Sisters' bandleader could flat out get ... it ... on. You know what the best test of a jazz musician's chops is? How busy he keeps. Ed Neumeister was holding down multiple gigs at this time: Reconstruction, the Sacramento Symphony (yes, a classical music crossing!), the Circle Star Theater house band (Corry), also, naturlich, gigging and jamming all around Northern California with every conceivable kind of combo. Less known among denizens of the Garciaverse, because he played with Jerry in an obscure band in small rooms for an obscure eight months in 1979 -- , he remains a highly respected teacher and player [edneumeister.com | JFS #55: The Ed Neumeister interview].
Repertoires

Part of being a real band with real members, with aspirations for sustained professional success is figuring out what to play and working on playing it, together. In the case of Reconstruction as a Garcia side trip, the results are rich and highly distinctive. Many numbers and even genres only appear in the Garciaverse by way of the band. It was, in short, risky, and the results show it – some great, some not-so-great. Let me unpack.
1. Contemporary White Boy Soul

Let's start on the "swing and miss" side of the ledger. The chief culprit here is a Ron Stallings-sung contemporary white soul number, Gino Vannelli's "I Just Wanna Stop". It charted #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 (despite having music's most Canadian opening line, "When I think about those nights in Montreal"). With Reconstruction it came off a little cringeworthy, Stallings incongruously smooth in his white suit and shoes. It's exceptionally interesting to me to hear Garcia playing a contemporary soul and trying to process the dissonance, but there's no reason you, reader, should subject yourself to it. A better choice in this genre is Reconstruction's "What You Won't Do For Love". It's a better tune to begin with --freaking Tupac sampled it-- with some real soul. It drew enough well enough in black clubs and on black radio that the record company tried for awhile to obscure Bobby Caldwell's race. It's a late-night-lovemaker in just the right measure, with an appropriately slinky progression, far dirtier than the pablum dribbling down from up north. Garcia used it to groove in some nice harmony vocals ("I'm in a daze | from your love, you see") with that little insouciance that comes from feeling both strong and relaxed about "l-o-v-e-love, l-o-v-e-love". This song succeeds where "I Just Wanna Stop" falls flat.
2. Killer Instrumentals

On the wow! side of the ledger, I'd make special note of some killer instrumentals. "Welcome To The Basement", composed by Merl and Eddie Moore, had appeared on Heavy Turbulence (Fantasy 8241, 1972), featuring Garcia on guitar. I would drool to hear some earlier versions, but it's not known to have been played live with Garcia until Reconstruction did it seven years later. John Kahn starts it off with his best lead bass, running several fast and powerful measures on his own before the band joins in. He also took a couple-minute feature inside the song, playing much more forcefully than he'd ever do again. Indeed, talking about critical ruptures, hearing John play this tune on July 22, 1979 undergirds my view that, when Reconstruction died, so too did John's playing power, giving way to disturbingly fluttery, feathery, overlong and generally unsuccessful soli from 1980 forward (e.g., 2/20/80).
Stevie Wonder's "Another Star", from his amazing 1976 double record Songs in the Key of Life [deaddisc], absolutely knocks me out every time. Merl, who ended up putting this on his 1979 album Do I Move You (Crystal Clear Records CCS-5006), had catalyzed Garcia to play a bunch of Stevie Wonder songs in their earlier collaborations including, regularly with JGMS and the Legion, the great "I Was Made To Love Her", done as a smoking instrumental and, in early 1973, with Sarah Fulcher on vocals, as well as "Boogie on Reggae Woman" (Merl singing) and an instrumental "Creepin'", both from 1974's Fulfillingness’ First Finale. There are even a couple of Stevie singletons in the Garciaverse: "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life", the Talking Book single that reached #1 on the charts and for which Wonder won a Grammy award, made one October 1973 appearance, and the Merl Saunders /Aunt Monk aggregation did "Love Having You Around" (5/9/75). There may be others.
Reconstruction's "Another Star", like Stevie's own, burns barns. Here are my notes from the version identified as 4/12/79 early show:
This is a great horn tune, and these guys set the chart ablaze. They are killin' it. Garcia jumps in for his first solo playing like a man possessed -- this is some of the most molten Garcia guitar work you will ever hear. Merl, who is spinning it out like a wizard over a crystal ball, all arcing fingers, allowing a little decay in, then more decayed wizardry, like 10 degrees off from true. Garcia harshly scrubbing at various places. I bet Jerry's disappointed they end it so soon. I bet at some point he gave them the old "let's stretch that out even more, man". I am sure they have it charted out, but they are pros and I hypothesize that if we time "Another Star" we'll see it lengthen out over the course of Reconstruction's (too-brief) run.
3. An old favorite

The other Motown they covered that destroys me is Smokey Robinson's "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game", done best, with lips reaching out the vinyl to whisper in your ear, by the Marvelletes. The tune entered the Garciaverse through ol' buddy John Kahn, who picked it for Jerry to do on Compliments (Round Records, 1974). John was a bona fide R&B nut, a legendary record collector and listener, holding special attachment, as is right and proper for the period, to Motown, and there is nothing that is not devastatingly great about his song. Legion did it live at least a time or two in 1975, it reappeared with Reconstruction, took a decade off, and came back in the late-era Garcia Band. The tune is unorthodoxly keyed, and Jerry sometimes had a hard time figuring out how to sing it; I find this in the Reconstruction versions. Old Jerry could sing it better, mostly because he was more patient with it, putting in a slightly more spacious arrangement with JGB #21b, slowing it down. But the 1990s versions also deliver a much heavier emotional punch – old Jerry isn't singing it about chasing tail (and tail being chased) – this song is about our predator-prey relations with life itself. The live version on Shining Star (Grateful Dead Records 4079, March 2001) wonderfully represents how an older, more grizzled Jerry could utterly reinterpret this American masterpiece of word and groove.
4. Latin Jazz

I hope to find another time to write about some other killer Reconstruction jazz instrumentals, so let me just mention the great Latin numbers. McCoy Tyner's "Sama Layuca" is terrifyingly brilliant, and the band drives it a fair bit harder than Tyner's original (on the album of the same name). Check out the August 10, 1979 version from the Temple Beautiful on Geary, a spaced-out 15-minute rendition that segues with limpid placidity into a sublime "Dear Prudence", the single best Beatles-song performances of Garcia's career. "Nessa", from Willie Bobo's Spanish Grease (Verve V6-8631, 1965), pushed the groove even more – this is some of the straightest Latin jazz you'll hear Garcia play, and it's got a little more frantic on it, just a shade or two darker, than most other artists' versions. Finally, a tune which Betty Cantor-Jackson inscribed as "Lyinda" on her tape boxes turns out to be "Linda Chicana", written by Mark Levine and first recorded by by Mongo Santamaria as "Sheila" (on Afro American Latin, Columbia, recorded 1969 and released 2000), was played by lots of folks, including one of Mongo's bosses, Cal Tjader, under the title I use (Clemens 2011). Like the other two, Reconstruction drove this one harder than any of these other artists.
These tunes gave Garcia a chance to work his deeply-imbued but rarely-displayed Latin chops. Despite the obviously Spanish surname, he was not a Latino in the current usage, since his father was Spain-Spanish, as one might say, rather than of New World descent. But he knew the music, was surrounded by it. He knew Carlos Santana very well, of course, had played with him and the Santanamigos at least a few times (GD 5/11/69 and 4/15/70 come immediately to mind). Merl had played with Carlos, too. But the San Francisco Latin scene, jazz and otherwise, was loaded with talented players (see here, mostly in comments). Conguero Armando Peraza had been a member of JGMS for a few months in early 1972. Martin Fierro, of course, joined Jerry and Merl in 1973 and was one of the three instrumental centerpieces of the Legion of Mary, the repertoire of which included Latin numbers "Valdez In The Country" and "La-La". While there was some precedent for Reconstruction's Latin engagements, then, the key point is that there was no "postcedent": after Reconstruction, Garcia would set Latin music aside, more or less completely, until right after his 1986 coma, when he started hooking up with Los Lobo, and he never engaged it in a sustained way again. The chance to hear Jerry play Latin jazz would be just one more casualty of Reconstruction's demise, victim to his and John's decelerating, Persian-assisted, post-Reconstruction drift into musical comfort.
5. Disco

The band also played what I can only call disco music, even though Gaylord Birch characterized Reconstruction as "tryin' to knock disco outta the box" (1/30/79, shnid-12560, s1t05). Disco of the sort I have in mind strikes me as an indigenous American musical form just as much as jazz is, though I don't know its history well enough to say. I have to think that, whatever its genesis, it found distinctively American expression. Reconstruction's disco, which I think leads lots of people to dismiss the whole enterprise is not about repertoire (they didn't do "I Will Survive"), but mostly about instrumentation --strobe-suggestive-synth, hard horns-- and, especially, arrangements -- fast and tight, good to dance to.
I like that Garcia was willing and able to engage disco (if it's really disco at all) with the same exploratory spirit he brought to most of the 70s side trips that centered on black and pan-racial musical forms. I like what it says about him, because it's an artistic choice that risked turning off his audience. Dead fans had reacted in some dismay to the horns and strings on 1977's Terrapin Station, perhaps even more so to the straight-disco "Dancing In The Streets" on Shakedown Street (1978). The cover of 1980's Go To Heaven, with the Dead in Disco Full Cleveland, has left none who have seen it capable of fully respecting any of those pictured on it. Professional reputations can suffer when musicians, perhaps having passed their primes, try on incongruous material; it can be unseemly.
But, to his credit, Garcia didn't seem to give much of a fuck. Reconstruction's Denver audience, a schadenfroh reviewer reports, "had a hard time accepting Garcia's new role as a neo-George Benson guitarist left to battle synthesizers" and "blaring horns" (Brown 1979), characteristically calling for "Casey Jones" or the Dead's exploratory masterpiece "Dark Star". Instead, they got, inter alia, white boy soul and disco. A Santa Cruz reviewer found the audience more accepting of the challenge with which Reconstruction presented them, and up to it (Light 1979). Either way, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and all that. And history can sometimes vindicate thoughtful choices – Reconstruction holds up well today, while disco –disco!—through Abba's improbable vicegrip stranglehold on the popular imagination—has permanently impacted popular music as it has ebbed and flowed these last four decades.
6. Etc.

In the interest of space (!), and using the Reconstruction songlist at deaddisc, I'll do some rough taxonomizing over the rest of the band's repertoire, in no particular order, and bearing in mind the arbitrariness of some of these distinctions. (I am more than open for suggestions on other ways to slice and package this material!)
Merl vocals
Ain't That Lovin' You
infoDo I Move You (Nina Simone)
infoDon't It Make It Better (Bill Withers)
infoThe Jealous Kind (Robert Guidry a.k.a. Bobby Charles)
infoLovely Night For Dancing (Bill Withers)

Reggae
infoThe Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff)
infoStruggling Man (Jimmy Cliff)

Motown
infoAnother Star (Stevie Wonder)
infoThe Hunter Gets Captured By The Game (Smokey Robinson)

Jazz
infoFast Tone (I believe this is a Merl Saunders and Tony Saunders original)
Linda Chicana (Mark Levine)
infoThe Mohican And The Great Spirit (Horace Silver)
Nessa (Ed Diehl)
infoSama Layuca (McCoy Tyner)

Contemporary White Soul
infoI Just Wanna Stop (Gino Vannelli)
infoWhat You Won't Do For Love (Bobby Caldwell and Alfons Kettner)

Blues
infoIt Ain't No Use (Jerry Williams / Gary Bonds / Don Hollinger)
infoSomeday Baby (Lightnin' Hopkins)

Rock
infoDear Prudence (Lennon/McCartney)
infoLong Train Runnin' (Johnson)

R&B
infoI'll Take A Melody (Toussaint)
infoLet's Go Get Stoned (Ashford, Simpson and Armstead)
infoSoul Roach (Merl Saunders, Ray Shanklin)
infoThat's What Love Will Make You Do (Thigpen, Banks, Marion)

Funk
infoTellin' My Friends About You (Merl Saunders / Larry Vann)
infoWelcome To The Basement (Merl Saunders / Eddie Moore)

A Little Gigging History

The hopes John expressed in April, that Reconstruction would become a going concern, were based more in optimism than in "success" over its first few months. Most gigs were midweek, and tiny rooms like the Cotati Cabaret and Rancho Nicasio provide the modal gig space. Reconstruction's first Friday gig was March 9th in Cotati at the Inn; its next, and far and away its biggest gig to that point, was March 30th at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz; just its third, in over two months of existence, was at the ultralocal Rio Theatre, in isolated Rodeo (possible slogan: "always unlikely"), a week later. One trip out of state (four midweek shows in Denver, April 11-12), one gig in Sacto, one in LA, and a night in San Diego – that's it as far as making its way in the wide world beyond the Greater Bay Area trilateral centered on Cotati to the North, Berkeley to the East, and Santa Cruz to the South. 57 gigs total, on my current count.
Conclusion: Risky Reconstruction

Reconstruction was a most unusual side trip for Garcia. It was his only post-1975 band not to bear his name. He frequently took a "subdued, background role" in the band (Light 1979). He was generally billed as a special guest, and even skipped a few gigs when the Dead occupied him otherwise (Corry). All of this suggests low pressure. True, in these senses (and in some absolute sense) he risked little in Reconstruction. He certainly didn't need the little money it might have provided. But at the same time, the band found him taking the risks that would have mattered most to him – musical ones. The players and the repertoire pushed Garcia out of his social and musical comfort zone, at the very least getting him to think about some new charts. Taking chances doesn't always pay off, though I find many in Reconstruction that do. But perhaps more importantly, getting stuck in a rut always pays peanuts.
Matt Light (1979) could have been summing up Garcia's seventies side trips in reviewing Reconstruction in Santa Cruz: "it is ever [Garcia's] habit to experiment, and he held his end in a first-rate group".
But it wouldn't last. The band didn't survive 1979, for reasons that are characteristically obscure. Pretty much all of Garcia's side trips ended with a whimper, usually skulking away, Baltimore-Colts-in-the-dead-of-night-style, from a hurt friend, or at least collaborator. He and John walked away from Merl, a man who loved Jerry, for at least the second time. I am sure it was probably just "wanting to move in another direction", as the euphemism has it. That's fine. But have the balls to say something. Instead, as Merl recounts, "there was a night when he didn't show up for a gig, which was done purposely, I think. It was sabotaged [Saunders won't say by whom]. They didn't tell him there was a gig to get to. And shortly after that he and John started a different group and I sort of lost touch with him" (Jackson 1999, 307, quoted by Corry).
While I think Garcia and Kahn were cowardly not to just lay it out for Merl, my sense of them is that they were both sensitive enough to others that they knew, if only deep-down but I really think closer to the surface, that they had done Merl wrong. We've all screwed somebody over at some point, did wrong by them. Only a sociopath doesn't feel guilty about it (I don't think these guys were sociopaths, natch), and I suspect that this was just one more piece of painful emotional baggage that gave opiates, with their promised and presumed unfeeling powers, so congenial. I want to be clear – I am speculating about any tie-in with Merl guilt. And we know, by Garcia's own stated timelines, that he (and we suspect with about 99% confidence that John) was already using before this. But more guilt almost certainly didn't help.
Whatever the emotions, Reconstruction's demise tolled heavily on Garcia's musical life, or rather it indicated big changes. After Reconstruction, he would not regularly try on material this novel, with players who could really stand up and push him, for more than a decade. And even then, when he returned to Grisman, he was rediscovering old material more than learning new things. Reconstruction had found Jerry Garcia reaching, if not for a gold ring, then at least for one with an appealing shine, or an interesting dent, or an evocative if not expensive jewel. When it ended, he stopped reaching, period. As the 1970s ended, the curtain came down, for a good long time, on Garcia's pursuit of challenge in his side trips. The eighties would wax in waning musical ambition.

NOTES AND REFERENCES
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2010. John Kahn Live Performance 1967-68: T&A R&B Band and Memory Pain (John Kahn II). Lost Live Dead, November 26, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/11/john-kahn-live-performance-1967-68-t-r.html, consulted 11/24/2014.
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2011. Jerry Garcia Band Drummers Top 10 List. Lost Live Dead, November 10, 2011, http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/11/jerry-garcia-band-drummers-top-10-list.html, consulted 5/19/2013.
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2011. May 19, 1979: The Old Waldorf, San Francisco, CA: Reconstruction/Horslips. Lost Live Dead, January 6, http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/01/may-19-1979-old-waldorf-san-francisco.html, consulted 11/15/2014.
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2012. Jerry Garcia>1978>Keyboards (Jerry Garcia-Bandleader). Lost Live Dead, September 20, 2012, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2012/09/jerry-garcia1978keyboards-jerry-garcia.html, consulted 12/31/2013.
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2012. Reconstructing Reconstruction, January-February and August-September 1979. Lost Live Dead, November 1, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2012/11/reconstructing-reconstruction-january.html, consulted 11/15/2014.
! ref: Arnold, Corry. 2012. Gaylord Birch – Drums. Hooterollin' Around, February 3, URL http://hooterollin.blogspot.com/2012/02/gaylord-birch-drums.html, consulted 11/15/2014.
! ref: BAM no. 50, February 16, 1979, p. 30.
! ref: Brown, G. 1979. Reconstruction Gig Not From Dead Catalog. Denver Post, April 12, 1979, p. 56.
! ref: Clemons, Dan. 2011. Mark Levine: The Interview. Jazzreview, January 29, 2011, URL http://www.jazzreview.com/jazz-artist-interviews/mark-levine-the-interview.html, consulted 11/23/2014. 
! ref: Light, Matt. 1979. Jazz for the Dead Heads. Good Times (Santa Cruz, CA), April 5, 1979, p. 14.
! ref: Sforzini, Hank. 2012. Five Musicians Remember Jerry Garcia. Paste, August 20, 2012, URL http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2012/08/five-musicians-remember-jerry-garcia.html, consulted 11/24/2014.

! note: see also  my "Reconstruction at the Rainbow"