Saturday, October 29, 2016

Alive with the Dead or A Fly on the Wall With A Camera

Alive with the Dead or A Fly on the Wall with A Camera. Susana Millman. 2016. Hardback 260 Pp.
For a group of regular looking guys, the Grateful Dead have been subject to more than their share of photo opportunities over the 50+ years since they started as a band, and they have been the subject of numerous book-length photographic collections. The latest, and one of the best, is by Bay Area photographer Susana Millman who, along with her husband, author and publicist Dennis McNally, was part of the band's inner circle from the mid-1980s. Since that time, Millman has been one of the most successful photojournalists at capturing the human side of the band members, crew, and family that make up the complex and ever-evolving society that was - and in many ways still is - the Grateful Dead. This generous and beautifully appointed book contains plenty of great shots of the Dead onstage, but many of the most enchanting photos come from other situations - backstage, out to dinner on tour, or extracurricular musical events like Mickey Hart's Planet Drum tour or Jerry Garcia's collaborations with his own band and with David Grisman. Millman's familiarity with band dynamics makes for some humorous collections of photos, including a memorable series of shots from the set of the hilarious video the band made for "Hell in a Bucket" and three pages of Jerry Garcia's bemused and befuddled expressions at bandmate Bob Weir's musically and physically unpredictable presence on various stages over the years. Although 80%of the book focuses on the years Millman photographed the Dead up to Jerry Garcia's death in 1995, the remaining 40 pages breezes through the following two decades, wrapping up with a few choice shots of Dead and Company onstage. Although the main course of this book is the photographs, they are informed wonderfully by essays by both Millman and McNally, and by a heartfelt and incisive foreword by Mickey Hart. Full disclosure: I participated in Millman's Kickstarter campaign for this book.


http://mamarazi.com/alive-with-the-dead-fly-on-wall/

Alive with the Dead or A Fly on the Wall With A Camera

Alive with the Dead or A Fly on the Wall with A Camera. Susana Millman. 2016. Hardback 260 Pp.
For a group of regular looking guys, the Grateful Dead have been subject to more than their share of photo opportunities over the 50+ years since they started as a band, and they have been the subject of numerous book-length photographic collections. The latest, and one of the best, is by Bay Area photographer Susana Millman who, along with her husband, author and publicist Dennis McNally, was part of the band's inner circle from the mid-1980s. Since that time, Millman has been one of the most successful photojournalists at capturing the human side of the band members, crew, and family that make up the complex and ever-evolving society that was - and in many ways still is - the Grateful Dead. This generous and beautifully appointed book contains plenty of great shots of the Dead onstage, but many of the most enchanting photos come from other situations - backstage, out to dinner on tour, or extracurricular musical events like Mickey Hart's Planet Drum tour or Jerry Garcia's collaborations with his own band and with David Grisman. Millman's familiarity with band dynamics makes for some humorous collections of photos, including a memorable series of shots from the set of the hilarious video the band made for "Hell in a Bucket" and three pages of Jerry Garcia's bemused and befuddled expressions at bandmate Bob Weir's musically and physically unpredictable presence on various stages over the years. Although 80%of the book focuses on the years Millman photographed the Dead up to Jerry Garcia's death in 1995, the remaining 40 pages breezes through the following two decades, wrapping up with a few choice shots of Dead and Company onstage. Although the main course of this book is the photographs, they are informed wonderfully by essays by both Millman and McNally, and by a heartfelt and incisive foreword by Mickey Hart. Full disclosure: I participated in Millman's Kickstarter campaign for this book.


http://mamarazi.com/alive-with-the-dead-fly-on-wall/

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Best Concerts of 2015

2015 was another great year for live music in the Bay Area. In compiling this list, I noted that I gravitated towards intimate venues rather than sheds or big auditoriums and may need to get out and hear more Americana music next year.  These 10 picks are listed in chronological order, so no ranking is implied.

Phil Lesh and Friends. 1.2.15, 2/8/15. Terrapin Crossroads. In addition to all of the hoopla surrounding the Fare The Well shows that reunited the Core Four of the Grateful Dead, bassist Phil Lesh planned his own celebration of the band’s history by playing a series of shows at Terrapin Crossroads, each commemorating a year of the band’s history from 1965-81. I went to a number of these shows, but I think my favorite was the first, on the second day of the new year, which celebrated the band’s bar band roots.  Lesh, augmented by guitarists Stu Allan, Scott Law, and Ross James, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and drummer Cody Dickinson, played one long set that blended covers of the day (“Off the Hook,” Twist and Shout” with the Dead’s early garage band-influenced tunes like “Mindbender” and “The Only Time is Now.” James sang tunes like “I’m a Hog For You Baby” and “Caution.” The guitarists played era-appropriate instruments, and clearly put a lot of work into summoning up an authentic vintage sound for this fun trip back to the mid 1960s.  

A few weeks later, Lesh played one his improvisational “Telstar” sessions with a unique band comprising Lesh, Law, Dickinson, ALO guitarist Lebo, and Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz. The single 80 minute set meandered through themes from several Dead songs, but the most exciting parts occurred when the group abandoned those structures entirely, leading to some exciting interactions between Lesh, Molitz, and Lebo.

Christian McBride Trio. 2/20/15. Kuumbwa Jazz Center. I see bassist Christian McBride every chance I get, and this was the first time I had seen him with his trio, which is rounded out by pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. Playing a set balancing standards and new compositions, the trio played with virtuosity and exuberance. Sands’ dazzling playing was a highlight, but Owens and McBride never dropped the beat, and the three worked together like a playfully well-oiled machine.

David Nelson and Eric Thompson. House Concert 5/3/15. After playing a number of shows as the core of the Black Mountain Jungle Boys, guitarists Nelson and Thompson, friends and collaborators since the early 1960s, performed a number of duo shows last year, including this memorable afternoon set in Los Altos.  The duo mostly drew on the traditional folk and bluegrass tunes that have been in both of their regular repertoires since their earliest performing careers, and regaled the enthusiastic audience with tales of their early days hanging out on the mid-Peninsula, playing with Jerry Garcia, and devouring Harry Smith’s Anthology of Folk Music. Just a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  

Marcus Miller. 8/24/15. Kuumbwa Jazz Center. Touring behind his latest album, Afrodesia, bassist and composer Marcus Miller and his splendid septet squeezed onto the relatively cozy Kuumbwa stage for a brilliant evening of world music-infused funk jazz. Drawing mostly from the new album, which explores the African and Caribbean roots of jazz, Miller and company blended catchy originals like the set opening “Highlife” with an extended version of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.

Chick Corea Trio. 9.12.15. Miner Auditorium. This was the third of four concerts, each with a different configuration, that Chick Corea performed for SF Jazz as part of his 2015 residency in Miner Auditorium. The trio, comprising Corea on piano, McBride on standup bass, and Blade on drums, lived up to its pedigree as a jazz supergroup featuring three experienced bandleaders.

Jorma Kaukonen. 11/8/15. Kuumbwa Jazz Center. It’s always a treat to see Jorma, whether solo or with some configuration of Hot Tuna, but it was really special to see him in an intimate listening room like Kuumbwa. His set featured many of the tunes Kaukonen has been playing since his folk club days in the early 1960s, along with much of the core repertoire from his many years in Hot Tuna and a handful of newer songs that find the guitarist coming to terms with his stage in life. Kaukonen seems happy and content, and this warm, engaging concert was as close as I’ll ever get to hearing him play in his living room.

North Mississippi Allstars. 12/5/15. Terrapin Crossroads. Cody and Luther Dickinson have been playing regularly with Phil Lesh for the last couple of years, and this was the second time the duo played their own show at Lesh’s San Rafael clubhouse. The evening started with the two Dickinsons playing several extended and gorgeous improvisations on a pair of Les Pauls. Next, Cody assumed his usual position behind the drum kit and they were joined by new bassist Ron Johnson and guest keyboardist Jason Crosby for a few songs. The long first set ended with Lesh replacing Thompson for a 35 minute, all instrumental min-Telstar which went some strange and wonderful places, with Luther and Lesh egging one another further and further out of their comfort zones.

Charlie Hunter Trio. Kuumbwa Jazz Center 12/7/15. Charlie Hunter always returns to the Bay Area over the holidays, but this year, rather than doing his usual duo show with bay area percussionist Scott Amendola, he came with his New York trio which also includes drummer Bobby Previte and trombone player Curtis Fowlkes. What seemed like an odd instrumental lineup turned out to be an inspired combination. Fowlkes coaxed a mellow, almost trumpet-like tone out of his trombone during quiet passages and sparred playfully with Hunter’s soulful seven string guitar and Previte’s aggressive drumming.  


The Bad Plus Joshua Redman. 12.12.15 Miner Auditorium, SF Jazz Center. Touring behind their recent joint release, Berkeley sax player Joshua Redman and New York jazz trio The Bad Plus played a delightfully chill set for SF Jazz as part of their four night run at the Miner Auditorium. Redman has really upped his instrumental game in the last couple of years and he has found a set of kindred spirits in the Bad Plus.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Best Books about Music – 2015

2015 has been a banner year for books about popular music, from autobiographies to photographic compendia to cultural histories. Here are ten books that I thought were among the year’s highlights. There were plenty of other good music books released this year. Some are on my reading list, notably Patti Smith’s second autobiography M Train, Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, and recent biographies of Charles Lloyd and John Mayall. Others, notably Dennis McNally’s amazing and erudite On Highway 61 and Herbie Hancock’s revealing autobiography Possibilities,  were disqualified because they came out in late 2014.

10. Willie Nelson. It’s a Long Story: My Life. Little Brown and Company. 408 Pp.
In recent years, Nelson has probably been recognized as much for his prodigious use of marijuana as his remarkable musical pedigree.  In his autobiography, Nelson traces his career from his early days as a songwriter in Nashville, through his successes as a mainstream country star in the sixties through his left-of-center detour into Outlaw country in the seventies and his subsequent Baptism as a cultural icon and a mainstay of the Farm Aid benefits. Nelson’s intelligence, his sense of humor, and his willingness to admit to his failures make this an unusually frank, illuminating, and entertaining read.

9.  Deke Leonard. Maximum Darkness: Man on the Road to Nowhere. Northdown Publishing, 281 Pp. This is the third in a trilogy of Man guitarist Deke Leonard’s witty, sometimes snarky guided tour through his long musical career.  The book picks up where its predecessor, Rhinos, Winos, and Lunatics left off, and details his career through the 1983 re-grouping of the Man Band following their 1976 breakup the present day. Leonard’s wry observations on the absurdities of the music business are good for many a laugh, and you do not have to have any familiarity with the Manband to find this an immensely entertaining read.

8. Peter  Richardson. No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead. St. Martin’s Press, 384 Pp.  I am well aware and unrepentant that half of the books on this list deal with the Grateful Dead. Celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2015, the Dead were unexpected media darlings, and the subject of several excellent and very different books released in conjunction with their semicentenary celebration. I know most of the authors, but this does not discount the fact that each book was extremely well-conceived and filled a unique niche. First out of the chute was San Francisco State historian Peter Richardson’s No Simple Highway, which does an excellent job of placing the Dead within the historical and political contexts of the times, particularly during their nascent years in the 1960s and 1970s.

7. Bill Kreutzmann and Benjy Eisen. Deal: Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs With the Grateful Dead.  Although drummer Kreutzmann is not the first GD band member to publish an autobiography, Deal, which he co-wrote with journalist Benjy Eisen, offers a fresh perspective from one of the band’s founding members. Kreutzmann does not pull his punches, as he offers a frank and often sentimental look at his 30 years in the band. This is also the go-to source for those who want to know who in the band took which drugs at which times.

6. Kim Gordon. Girl in a Band: A Memoir. Dey Street Books 288 Pages.  Sonic Youth bassist and vocalist Kim Gordon’s memoir shows how she transitioned from a bohemian childhood in California through hippie and punk phases before emerging in 80s New York, almost by accident, as bassist for one of the most boldly experimental groups of the late 20th Century. Gordon also draws in her parallel careers in art and fashion design, and her observations (alluded to in the title) on being the sole woman in a men’s club of a rock band.   

5. David Browne. So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead. De Capo Press 496 Pp. Rolling Stone writer Browne tells the Dead’s story from the vantage point of five particularly memorable days in the band’s history.  Browne’s almost cinematic narrative is informed by his significant access to band and family members during the writing of his book.

4. Elvis Costello.  Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink.  Blue Rider Press. 688 Pp. Elvis Costello has touched more aspects of the musical spectrum than most musicians would dream of tackling. In this very entertaining and lengthy autobiography, Costello traces the convoluted path that led him from early days as a pub and then punk rocker through his subsequently convoluted career and his professional and personal encounters with such diverse characters as Nick Lowe, Bert Bacharach, Alan Toussaint, and his wife, jazz singer Diana Krall.

3.  Dennis McNally. Jerry on Jerry: The Unpublished Jerry Garcia Interviews.   Black Dog and Leventhal. 240 Pp.  20 years after Jerry Garcia’s death, Grateful Dead biographer and publicist Dennis McNally compiled transcripts of five lengthy interviews with the guitarist from 1973 to the early 1990s. Garcia was a consummate rapper, and it is a delight to hear him holding forth on the pranksters, film, fine art, songwriting, and plenty of discussions of the Dead’s long strange trip. This book is also available in audio form for those who want to hear rather than read Garcia’s ruminations.

2.Peter Guralnick.  Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll. Little Brown and Company. 784 Pp.  Guralnick is probably best known for his hefty two volume biography of Elvis Presley, and his latest effort focuses on the singular career of Sam Phillips, who made the earliest recordings of Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King and Carl Perkins at Sun Studios, his legendary Memphis recording facility. Guralnick’s weighty tome chronicles Phillips’ life in detail, from his start as a teen entrepreneur through his glory days in radio and at Sun, his wilderness years in the seventies and eighties and his comeback near the end of the century. When writing the Elvis books, Guralnick became a good friend of Phillips and his family, and thus he brings an insider's perspective to his depiction of the last years of this musical icon's wild and wooly life.  


1. Blair Jackson and David Gans. This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead.  Flatiron Books. 512 Pp.  This stands as my favorite book to date on the Dead, lovingly compiled by two writers who have spent their adult lives in the world of the Dead. Drawing on extensive interviews the pair and others have done with band members, crew, staff, and fans over the years, the book provides a warts-and-all look at this ungainly, yet surprisingly resilient and wildly popular cultural institution.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Donna Jean Godchaux Band with Jeff Mattson. Back Around. Heart of Gold Records (2014)


Before she was a member of the Grateful Dead, vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux was a session musician in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, playing on sessions with the likes of Elvis Presley and Percy Sledge. Godchaux was prominently featured in the recent documentary on Muscle Shoals, and returned to her roots on her latest band recording, Back Around, which was recorded in Muscle Shoals’ Nutthouse Studios with her touring band (including ace DSO guitarist Jeff Mattson) augmented by a crew of the town’s best players, including the legendary Musche Shoals Horns.  The result is an irresistible blend of San Francisco jam looseness and  tight Alabama soul groove.  The Godchaux-penned opening track, “Don’t Ask Me Why,” is a simmering minor key soul ballad with Godcahaux’s sultry vocal augmented by a lush chorus.  The band’s punchy cover of  Steve Cropper’s “Don’t Fight It” is given the full Swamper treatment with some muscular guitar from Jeff Mattson, tasty accents from the Muscle Shoals horns, and a powerful call-and-response vocal. 

The Youngbloods classic “Darkness, Darkness” builds slowly from a muted keyboard and guitar introduction to a powerful instrumental interlude back into the final chorus.  The group’s reinvention of “Crazy Fingers,” one of the Dead’s most challenging ballads, is sung powerfully by Godchaux and features creatively rippling horn and piano textures, a bit of banjo, and a brilliantly understated guitar passage from Mattson.  “19th Nervous Breakdown is rendered as a sprightly shuffle sung as a duet by Mattson and Godchaux over an infectious “Mystery Train” guitar figure. The album closes with is the moody “Stranger Things,” which is built around a terse, stuttering drum  and piano and expands into full blown choruses featuring the horn section, wrapping up with a jazzy flute coda from legendary horn/reed man Jim Horn.  Back Around is a thoroughly entertaining effort that finds Godchaux and company successfully blurring and pushing stylistic borders.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Howard Levy and Chris Siebold, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Monday, January 27, 2014


Harmonica and keyboard virtuoso Howard Levy is perhaps best known for his role in Bela Fleck’s Flecktones and, while he has contributed mightily to that group’s ensemble sound, a show where he is the headliner is the best way to experience his multiple talents. Currently on a low profile tour with acoustic guitarist Chris Siebold, Levy pulled out all of the stops for his Monday night stop at Kuumbwa. Levy opened unaccompanied playing a harmonica medley of Brahms’ Lullaby and Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Starting out with the relatively unadorned melodies of these two timeless pieces, he quickly started conjuring up more and more fanciful variations without doing too much violence to the tempo or melody of either piece. Midway, he switched from the harmonica to acoustic grand piano without missing a beat, something that might be a parlor trick for a less talented musician but simply afforded Levy the opportunity to continue the same musical conversation with a very different melodic arsenal.

Although Siebold basically sat out the opener, he quickly demonstrated his skills both at comping chords on his respohonic guitar and playing melodic leads that compared favorably with Levy’s when called upon to do so.  The rest of the duo’s show was a journey through a variety of styles, including an extravagant, flamenco tinged Levy original, Spanish Serenade,” a romping 12 bar workout on his “Tri-State Boogie,” and another Levy original, “Lips and Fingertips” that called for him to solo simultaneously on harmonica held in his right hand while he played piano filigrees with his left. Other highlights included a sultry rendition of Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” that gave Siebold plenty of space to solo and an exquisite balladic arrangement of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay.” For the last number, the duo broke from their otherwise all-instrumental format for Siebold to demonstrate his prowness as a blues shouter on Little Richard’s “Directly From My Heart To You.” 

Both Kuumbwa’s Executive Director Tim Jackson and Levy thought that Levy had played there previously, but neither seemed sure when or in what ensemble.  In any event, this was clearly his first time appearing there as the headliner.  Nonetheless, he and Siebold quickly won over the audience, who rewarded them with a few well deserved standing ovations. Hopefully Levy and Siebold will make Santa Cruz a regular stop in the future.




Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Concerts of 2013

I saw more than my share of live music in 2013, including some new groups. a number of one-off collaborations, and some outstanding perforances by the usual suspects.  Paring a year of music down to a dozen top events wasn’t easy, but here’s what I came up with, listed in chronological order.

Billy Cobham Spectrum 40 Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz.  1/31/13. Drummer Billy Cobham helped define jazz fusion in the early 1970s on seminal recordings by Miles Davis and as a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of his ground-breaking solo album Spectrum, Cobham brought a top drawer ensemble to Santa Cruz including guitarist Dean Brown, keyboardist Gary Husband, bassist  Ric Fierabracci and his old Mahavishnu bandmate Jerry Goodman on violin for a set of  intricate electric jazz that sounded fresh, with Cobham in top form as he moved freely from light percussion interludes to full arena bombast with his oversized kit.

Rolling Stones – HP Pavilion, San Jose  5/8/13. Few musical ensembles have persisted for five decades, and the Rolling Stones certainly can’t attribute their longevity to a clean and healthy lifestyle. Keith Richards was moving a bit slower than the last time I saw the band, but, they still managed to rock mightily at the local stop on their 50 and counting tour. Guest shots by Bonnie Raitt and John Fogerty, a cameo by ex-Stone Mick Taylor, and deep cuts like “No Expectations” and “Paint It Black” were all highlights, but it was a special thrill to see our hometown student ensemble, the Choraliers, onstage with the Stones for their first encore, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

North Mississippi Allstars Duo (with Phil and Grahame Lesh) Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael.  8/3/13. What was billed as a duo show by brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson turned into a rowdy jam session when Terrapin proprietor Phil Lesh and his guitarist son Grahame joined the Dickinsons for this long, rootsy show that was equal parts blues-rock classics and familiar selections from the Grateful Dead songbook. The already furious pace of the show amped up further when Lesh’s new best friend, guitarist Anders Osborne, came onstage for a few numbers, ultimately bringing it home with a rowdy pairing of “All Along the Watchtower” and “Turn On Your Lovelight

Phil Lesh and Friends – Terrapin Crossroads 8/11/13. I spent a lot of evenings in San Rafael this year, but this matinee, a last-minute addition featuring the ensemble that played the previous two nights for the mixed-media Tree of Life event, was particularly memorable, one long set of joyous rock and roll. Lesh clearly has a special bond with multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell and his vocalist wife Theresa Williams, and has found another sympatico collaborator in New Orleans guitarist Anders Osborne.  Drummer Tony Leone grounded the ensemble, while jazz funk keyboardist John Medeski provided groove with an avant-garde edge.


The Carolina Chocolate Drops with Regina Carter– SF Jazz Center, May 12. The Carolina Chocolate Drops were guests of SF Jazz Artist in Residence Regina Carter on the final night of her May residency. The youthful Chocolate Drops have rediscovered African American string band music of the 19th through early 20th century and made its energy and classic compositions accessible to contemporary audiences. Although this was primarily the Chocolate Drops’ show, Carter joined them on violin for several tunes.

Rock Collection Unplugged – Moss House 9/22/13. House concerts are a wonderfully intimate way to see as well as hear great musicians up close and personal. This event featured a rare acoustic performance of the Bay Area’s rock collection, slimmed down for this event to a trio comprising guitarists Dan Lebowitz and Mark Karan and bassist Robin Sylvester.  Both Lebo and Karan are world class lead guitarists, but they also excelled at subtle, tasty rhythm and fills when the other guitarist was soloing. The show’s two long sets were a mixture of old favorites, new material, and the usual Dylan and Dead covers.

Christian McBride Trio – Kuumbwa October 7, 2013. Bassist McBride has played Kuumbwa many times, most recently earlier this year as part of the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour ensemble, but he seems most in his element leading his own trio, featuring drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. and pianist Christian Sands. Although McBride is hardly a veteran, his pairing with these two younger virtuosos definitely keeps him on his toes. The intimate but music-friendly confines of Kuumbwa always bring out the best in McBride, so this evening’s set of standards and material from the trio’s recent release was particularly inspired.

Brokedown in Bakersfield – Terrapin Crossroads  9/6/13. Southern California spawned its own unique blend of country music in the 1950s and 1960s, and this occasional ensemble does Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Gram Parsons proud.  Nicki and Tim Bluhm, who had done a stellar set in the same room a couple of weeks earlier with their other band, the Gramblers, took the bulk of the lead vocals. The band is rouded out by telecaster master Scott Law and three fourths of bay area jam-funk phenoms ALO (Dan Lebowitz on pedal steel and vocals, Steve Adams on bass, and drummer Dave Brogan.

Bill Frisell and Friends – SF Jazz Center  9/15/13. The SF Jazz Center chose wisely in selecting guitarist Bill Frisell as one of their initial artists in residence. Frisell wrapped up his September residency with a bit of a free for all featuring all of the artists that played with him individually on the previous three nights.  This wildly eclectic ensemble featured vocalist Pieta Haden, viola player Eyvind Kang, bassist Thomas Mayer, saxophonist Greg Osby, and drummer Rudy Royston. While the musicians filed on and off stage in a variety of combinations, cartoonist Jim Woodring drew a fantastic tableau on a screen behind the stage. 

Furthur – Greek Theatre, Berkeley  9/29/13. People have either loved or hated this touring vehicle for Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, but the group had a successful five year run that ends with a set of shows in the Mayan Riviera next month. Their final bay area show, at the Grateful Dead’s old stomping grounds in Berkeley, was something special – brilliantly played on a glorious Sunday afternoon that saw almost everyone up and dancing.

Joshua Redman Quartet – Kuumbwa 11/15/13. I’ve seen Berkeley saxophone player Redman in a variety of settings over the years, most recently as part of a duo with table player Zakir Hussain at the SF Jazz Center, but I have never seen him more energized or in better form than at this performance with his new quartet, comprising  pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Redman was leaning hard into his instrument from the first notes, pumping his leg continually as if to summon up more air from his lungs. The group’s first number lasted half an hour, and featured the dense ensemble playing that characterized the whole show.

David Nelson Band - Terrapin Crossroads 11/17/73. Although they only do a couple of tours a year because of other commitments (Nelson with the New Riders and guitarist Barry Sless,  bassist Pete Sears and drummer John Molo with Moonalice), the David Nelson Band's shows have captured much of the rhythmic magic that characterized the Grateful Dead in their prime. This Saturday show, the middle of a three night Txr stand, was pure fun from start (with Nelson pulling out Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell." to the triple encore of "White Lighting (featuring a rare lead vocal turn by Molo), "Sisters and Brothers," and "Earl's Girls," A significant portion of the audience attends every show this band plays - and I can see why.