The Grateful Dead were going strong in 1980, yet somehow Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) found time to tour in his own quartet that featured Ozzie Ahlers (keyboards/vocals), John Kahn (bass) and Johnny DeFoncesca (drums). This lineup of the Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) was relatively short-lived, lasting less than six months after DeFoncesca was replaced by former Sly & the Family Stone and Santana percussionist Greg Errico. While Garcia would sporadically incorporate original material, as this set reflects, the majority of the JGB repertoire consisted of well-chosen covers. A supremely languid, ethereal and extended reading of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence" opens up Way After Midnight (2004) as the guitarist unleashing torrents of soulful fretwork and equally sincere vocals. Although he takes the occasional lyrical liberty, they fit flawlessly in the arrangement. Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece" bears much of the same rollick that defined the Band's version, thanks in part to Kahn's full-bodied and rock-solid basslines. For his part, Garcia likewise provides thoroughly enjoyable solos after the respective verses. Even while he only performed briefly in the JGB, DeFoncesca is a tremendous foil for both Kahn and Garcia, adding his own subtle inflections and percussive fills tucked deep within the groove. Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby" spans over a quarter-hour and is evidence of the bandleader's uncanny melodic sense. The JGB's adaptation could not be more different from the interpretation included on Garcia (Compliments) (1974). The tempo is brought way down and the melody is sonically scrutinized for maximum effect. The opposite is true of the incendiary "That's Alright Mama" that is given a rip snortin' rendition twice as fast and furious as those done either in the context of the Grateful Dead or with Merl Saunders, Kahn and Bill Vitt on Live at the Keystone (1973). "Deal," the sole Garcia/Robert Hunter number, concludes Way After Midnight on an up note as the combo bop freely around Garcia's fiery leads, as Ahlers is particularly affective in his support. This disc was initially only available as a gratis supplement to purchasers of After Midnight: Kean College, 2/28/80 (2004) from the official Jerry Garcia website, www.jerrygarcia.com.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer