Electric Hot Tuna
Jorma’s 70th Birthday Celebration
Fur Peace Ranch
BluesWax Rating: 8 out of 10
Jorma & Friends Roll on, Hot F’ing Tuna Indeed!
You’d think that at seventy one night of antics would suffice, but, no, Jorma Kaukonen got two nights to celebrate his seventieth birthday, so on December 3 and 4, 2010, this incarnation of Hot Tuna checked themselves into the Beacon Theater in New York City. All in all there’s twelve live performance tracks included (many with special guests) that total almost two hours of music. Plus, fifteen minutes of bonus material that includes a still photo gallery (highlights from the concerts, plus on- and offstage flashback shots of a younger Jorma) that runs uncontrollably and is accompanied with a very cool instrumental track of just Kaukonen and Jack Casady, and one other live tune. There’s also a very short onstage birthday cake presentation, and a (relatively short) Jorma and Jack interview about the making of their latest disc, Steady As She Goes.
The DVD starts with a pedestrian-paced “I See the Light” that shows off some low-key but intricate interplay between Jorma and the multi-guitarist Barry Mitterhoff, and, of course, Casady’s bass always intrigues. Even though their latest 2011 CD hadn’t yet been released, the band test drives “If This Is Love” that finds Casady jumping around the stage and spending a lot of face time with their new drummer Skoota Warner, who adds a lot dynamics and color to the band. The first guest is John Hammond Jr. who sings and plays guitar on a short “I Can Tell,” and quickly exits. Warren Haynes, Larry Campbell, and Bill Kirchen jump in for (a classic Tuna) “Come Back Baby” that excites and goes on for over eleven minutes and where Campbell does a great job echoing Papa John Creach’s violin excursions and has a ball soloing and riffing with the band. Haynes and Jorma engage but their segment really doesn’t mesh. Standup bassist Byron House fits right in with Casady on a wonderful rendition of Kaukonen’s “Water Song.”
The second night starts with the core Tuna band (no guests) with “Been So Long,” but things get very interesting when Casady’s thumping bass lines introduce “Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man,” more double-bass playing reoccurs as Oteil Burbridge joins and immediately bonds with Casady. There’s more as Bob Weir walks on stage and shakes things up with his sharp rhythm and occasional guitar solos, and there’s also two drummers onstage with Bob Steeler drumming along with Skoota Warner. Burbridge gets a solo bass spot and accompanies himself by scat singing. Weir’s a nice fit here too and this slow, burning jam goes on for almost (what did you expect?) sixteen minutes. The same band continues as Weir sings “Walking Blues” where Jorma’s seemingly enjoying having Weir to play off of. Steve Earle sings and plays acoustic guitar his own “”Hometown Blues” and is almost done for the night. Burbridge returns for a ten-minute “99 Year Blues” that strolls along mightily. Mitterhoff and Kaukonen beautifully coalesce off each other acoustically, but this time it’s Casady who gets the first bass solo, followed by another Burbridge bass solo where it’s neat to see the two bassists intricately trade off bass licks that ignites the rest of the band. Jorma’s guitar is particularly heady here. Before the night ended you knew they’d get to “Funky #7.” Burbridge stays on as Pete Sears joins in as does Steeler’s second drumming. As would be expected, this jam rolls on for almost nineteen minutes and has magical moments within this extended and at times psychedelic jam. Weir and an onslaught of others (Michael Falzarano, Pete Sears, Steve Earle) return for a rollicking cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What Do You Want Me To Do,” and the birthday celebration’s curtain hits the ground.
Jorma, got any plans for your next birthday? This time I want to be there! This video is a superb snapshot for Jorma’s seventieth, the video capture is pretty good, but I was very disappointed with the sound quality which lacked dynamics that offers a very thin bottom end which is a major disappointment for hearing the full embodiment of Casady, and when the two other bassists who connected with Jack. All in all. this DVD serves as a special celebration/document for Jorma Kaukonen’s seventieth. Let’s not forget his longtime cohort Casady who has incredibly been right there at every step of the way, note for note, and as one with Jorma for nearly half a century! Long live Hot F’ing Tuna, go see them live; they are recently and currently reinvigorated, very vibrant, and creative. May their jams go on and on…
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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