Jerry Garcia Band

After Midnight: Kean College, 2/28/80

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Released in 2004, After Midnight: Kean College, 2/28/80 is a three-disc offering from a short-lived incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band, featuring Garcia (guitar/vocals), John Kahn (bass), Ozzie Ahlers (keyboards/vocals), and Johnny De Foncesca (drums). The aggregate lasted less than six months, with De Foncesca replaced by former Sly & the Family Stone and Santana percussionist Greg Errico less than a month after this late February show. Opening up for Garcia on a majority of the East Coast run was his lyricist and primary collaborator, vocalist Robert Hunter. He joins the JGB during the second set for readings of his own "Tiger Rose" and "Promontory Rider," in addition to offering up his recollections of the experience in the package's liner essay. The quartet is exceptionally compact, with an ability to instantly expand and sidetrack into an impressive exchange of improvisations. This is evidenced by the exploratory jam linking "After Midnight" to an incendiary jazz-fused instrumental interpretation of "Eleanor Rigby" before returning for a reprise of the former. With the exception of the lamenting rocker "Sugaree" and the gorgeous Bay Area ballad "Mission in the Rain," the selections may appear short on originals. Hunter's notes point out that many of the "good Garcia solo-band songs hadn't been written yet," adding that on this evening the artist plays as many Bob Dylan tunes as he does from his own non-Grateful Dead repertoire. Speaking of which, "Simple Twist of Fate" and "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" are each given emotive interpretations, the latter adopting the nimble reggae-influenced gait reminiscent of Eric Clapton's reading. Those familiar with Hunter's interpretations of his own work will find that the versions of the aforementioned "Tiger Rose" and "Promontory Rider" by the JGB are a refreshing change of sonic scenery. While definitely a recommended spin for inclined parties, enthusiasts not familiar with this era or JGB lineup are particularly encouraged to check out After Midnight: Kean College, 2/28/80.

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