Pure Jerry - The
Jerry Garcia vault series
Garcia & Merl Saunders Band: -- Keystone Berkeley, September 1,
September 1, 1974, the fourth edition of the Pure Jerry series
offers a line-up of the Garcia and
Saunders band that extended their previous members by adding Martin
Fierro on saxophone, flute, and percussion. Fierro played on the Grateful Dead's Wake
of the Flood.
Regarding the band name, is
it Legion of Mary, Garcia and Saunders, or Saunders and Garcia? Does
it matter? Current evidence indicates that Garcia and Saunders band
began using the name Legion of Mary from December 1974 through July
1975. The music didn't change, just what they called themselves. The personnel difference
between the two line-ups is the drummer; with Paul Humphrey on drums
from Summer 1974 through December 1974, and Ron Tutt taking the helm
in December 1974. In
Blair Jackson's essential book Garcia: An American Life, bassist John Kahn explains how the name Legion of Mary was
his idea, named after a religious group, and that the first gig
under as Legion of Mary was at the Keystone Berkeley.
This band takes a jazzier
approach than most of Jerry's side projects. Long time band mates
Merl Saunders and John Kahn are quite adept at jazz and blues
material. Add to the mix Martin Fierro, who is heavily influenced by
Bostic. While drummer Paul Humphrey worked with Wes
Kontiz, and Gene
Ammons. Other musical genres they explore include
funk, rhythm and blues, Reggae, and they tackle two Bob Dylan
numbers from his 1974 classic Planet
Waves, which featured The Band
as supporting cast.
Legion of Mary has three
capable soloists, Jerry, Martin, and Merl. Further, on this release,
there is a guest trumpet player on about one third of the material.
For Jerry fans, during the non-instrumental material, this cuts into
both the number of guitar solos and their length. Don't despair.
Don't! On the bright side you'll hear another aspect of Jerry; most
important in terms of playing jazz music, but also a chance to hear
his rhythm guitar passages, and setting up other musicians.
Instrumentals songs are abundant
on Keystone Berkeley, September 1, 1974. If I counted correct
there are six. On disc one there are three; "Favela" and
"La La" are both jazzy numbers while "Keepers,"
penned by Saunders and Kahn, is more funk in nature. During "Favela"
the mood is more uplifting than the more experimental "La
La." The latter track features Fierro on flute and musically it
is somewhat like a Grateful Dead "Space" segment during
parts, especially towards the end of the exploration.
The third disc has three
instrumental tracks. First up is "Soul Roach," penned by
Merl Saunders and Ray Shanklin; an excellent blues track with a bit
of jazz leanings, especially when the guest trumpet player takes
their extended solo. Back-to-back instrumentals with "People
Make The World Go Round," and "Keystone Jam." The
latter track is their most experimental on the whole release. It
reminds me a bit of Ornette
Coleman free jazz. Again, gratis to the trumpet player.
The second disc includes an
excellent diversity of cover songs. Arguably the highlight is
"Roadrunner," as Fierro really makes his saxophone sing.
Truthfully, the whole disc is quite good.
I have a hunch that in
addition to the September 1 show there are a few tracks of filler
mixed with. That is more than ok by me. Why do I think there is
filler? This is quite a long show. They take a lot of announced
breaks. The spacing between songs when the mystery trumpet player
performs. The cueing up of songs.
September 1, 1974, is excellent! In addition to the familiar
cover material sounding fresh with uplifting bright sax, the
abundance of jams are excellent and unique. Highly recommended.
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