I will start this week with a confession: Brace yourself. I came to terms with this many years ago but admitting it, especially in print, may have me drummed out of music circles and would surely have my hippie citizenship from my native Berkeley revoked. I have never been a fan of The Grateful Dead! (Gasp!).
Don’t misunderstand me, I recognize their prominence in the annals of jam band and psychedelic jug music. I will, albeit begrudgingly, fully acknowledge their prominence as a cult band as well as their longevity. With that cathartic admission, I will add that many jazz musicians and fans have succumbed to their undeniable charisma. Jazz people love musicianship, which they definitely had in spades. After the death of Jerry Garcia, I came around a bit when I learned of saxophone great Charles Lloyd’s devotion and involvement with The Dead.
Undeniably, this softened my prejudice when I received the latest Blue Note recording “Grateful Deadication” from saxophonist Dave McMurray. He pulled out all the stops on this endeavor. Dead guitarist Bob Weir himself appears, along with Blue Note magnate/producer Don Was, Bettye LaVette and other guests. Factor in McMurray and his profoundly solid band and you have a stunning recording. The sign of a brilliant tribute is that it converts the non-fans. “Dark Star” and “Loser” are phenomenal. A great romp for Deadheads and skeptics like me.
No such biases filled me when I finally picked up my copy of local marimbist Jenny Klukken’s “Color in Motion.” The time span between conception and manifestation was seemingly endless for admirers like me. It’s unimaginable what the wait must have been like for Klukken. She’d originally planned to record some of it in Costa Rica before a certain Pandemic struck.
Thankfully, she remained steadfast to her vision. Whatever the delays or distractions, the album is brilliant. She is a gifted musician with a profound knack for sonic portraiture. This is compatible with her “other talent” as a visual artist.
She doesn’t necessarily fall into the “jazz” pigeonhole, whatever that may be. So the name may not ring an immediate bell. But the list of capablemen and women on the project says all you need to know about Jennifer’s talents: Chris Bates, Bryan Nichols, Karla Colahan and Olivia Dierks, along with Nachito Herrera, Steve Yeager and many others. Lots of originals and a timely version of Chick Corea’s “Armando’s Rhumba.”
The cd will be officially released with a live performance at Icehouse on July 18th: