Prior to releasing his first non-Grateful Dead-related solo albums, Jerry Garcia (guitar) teamed up with Howard Wales (keyboards), another Bay Area performer, for the instrumental studio outing Hooteroll? (1971). They had actually been sharing the stage of local clubs -- most notably the Matrix and Keystone Korners -- during Monday night open-jam sessions circa 1968 and 1969. It was these free-form live collaborations that connected the guitarist with future Jerry Garcia Band colleague John Kahn (bass), and the pair maintained a close musical association until Garcia's passing in 1995. The "anything goes" and "no expectations" mentality fuelling those Garcia and Wales gigs likewise translated into the primary motivating force behind this platter. Joining the two are Curly Cook (rhythm guitar), Bill Vitt (drums), Michael Marinelli (drums), Ken Balzall (trumpet), and Martin Fierro (sax/flute). "Morning in Marin" and the funky "South Side Strut" fuse intricate and advanced jazz progressions with soulful and driving rhythms, recalling Miles Davis' (trumpet) late-'60s work and Tony Williams' (drums) subsequent recordings Emergency! (1969) and Turn It Over (1970). "Da Bird Song" -- which bears no relationship to the "Bird Song" that Garcia cut on his 1972 self-titled debut -- provides a nice contrast, as it takes on a gospel flavor. The blend of Fierro's windswept flute, Wales' robust piano inflections, and Garcia's weepy pedal steel guitar licks put the selection in a category all its own. The moody "Up From the Desert" embraces a slightly ethereal air, especially within the quaint baroque introductory passages. "One A.M. Approach" is remarkable in its intimacy between the co-leads. Garcia brings a quality and pure tonality that he would rarely revisit, either on his own or in the context of the Grateful Dead. The original LP included seven tracks -- minus both "Morning in Marin" and "Evening in Marin." The 2004 CD reissue from Evolver inexplicably removed "A Trip to What Next," making the Rykodisc and Grateful Dead Records pressings the most complete available.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer