Listening Post: Grateful Dead, Gretchen Parlato, Enrico Granafei - The Buffalo News

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Listening Post: Grateful Dead, Gretchen Parlato, Enrico Granafei


Grateful Dead, “Sunshine Daydream: Veneta, Oregon, August 27, 1972” (Grateful Dead/Rhino; three CDs, one DVD). Few shows in the Grateful Dead’s storied tenure boast the sort of mythological ambience of “8/27/72.” Bootleg tapes of the Dead’s show in Veneta, Ore., on that date have been circulating forever, but no complete, official recording has been available until now. This show captures the Dead at an early peak, fresh from its 1972 tour of Europe and firing on all cylinders. Keith and Donna Godchaux had just joined the band, and the repertoire had expanded to include songs that would become the heart of the Grateful Dead songbook. The Veneta show was a benefit for the Springfield Creamery, owned and operated by the family of author and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey, and it is Kesey who takes the mic to offer a hilarious, and rambling, introduction to the show. Spirits were clearly high – this show, after all, is considered by most Dead scholars to be the final “Acid Test,” the Kesey-led events that involved psychedelics, Merry Prankster-isms and the music of the Dead throughout the end of the ’60s. All of this lends historical significance to “Sunshine Daydream,” but what matters most is the music, and is it ever incredible. Dead epics like “Dark Star,” “Playing in the Band,” “China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider,” and “Bird Song” are played with incredible fire and the Dead’s signature precision. The documentary is fascinating, too, capturing the Dead performing in the sunshine at an unaccustomed hour, with plenty of footage of legendary crew members and happy hippies offering historical perspective. ∆∆∆∆ (Jeff Miers)


Gretchen Parlato, Live in NYC (ObliqSound disc plus concert DVD). It’s one of the major mistakes you can make in today’s jazz audience – thinking that the smallness and breathiness of Gretchen Parlato’s voice disqualifies her from being one of the more ambitious jazz singers we have in an era that is far more full of singers than it is jazz ambition. There isn’t a hoary old standard or ear-bathing sample from the Great American Songbook here. Herbie Hancock and Bennie Maupin’s “Butterfly”? You bet. Her lyrics for Wayne Shorter’s “JuJu”? Sure. Lauryn Hill’s “All That I Can Say”? That, too. If you want the security of standards, you know all the performers who will give them to you. Parlato isn’t one of them. Nor does the sweetness of her voice prohibit her from being a daring improviser either. She is, as the great current singers are these days, a strong part of a musical group that functions brilliantly next to her – in this case one led by terrific young pianist Taylor Eigsti and with drummer Kendrick Scott on two of its eight selections. These are December 2012 performances from the Rockwood Music Hall. Six months later, she appeared here in the Albright-Knox Gallery’s indispensable Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz series. A major standout in the thronging ranks of jazz singers. ∆∆∆½ (Jeff Simon)


Enrico Granafei, “Alone Together” (CAP). Sing hallelujah. Toots Thielmans lives. Maybe not in the same body (although he’s with us there too), but certainly in the spirit of the glorious Italian musician who plays something called the Hands Free Chromatic Harmonica, often accompanying himself on a combination bass and guitar, which makes him sound like three instruments at once. And you thought the title of this, his second disc, just came from the great old standard tune that is one of those great old tunes appearing on it. Granafei’s multi-instrumental playing is no more a gimmick than Roland Kirk’s used to be, mostly because his harmonica playing is so affecting it would be hard not to love no matter what else was going on. He is, perforce, not the harmonica dazzler that Thielmans was, but his music can be almost as primally lyrical and affecting. ∆∆∆½ (J.S.)

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