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Hornsby on GD and improvisation

 
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snow_and_rain
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:16 pm    Post subject: Hornsby on GD and improvisation Reply with quote


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Check out this interview with Hornsby from 2000. He challenges the idea that the GD were improvisational. He says that they were too structured for him. They didn't want to change up song positions, open with Wharf Raf, or play China> MAMU, or a half dozen other dumb ideas. He sounds like a real dick.. Now I like him even less.

You played with Jerry Garcia Band in ’91 just one time in Hampton. How was that different than playing with the Dead?

One thing that was different about it was that I wasn’t playing the piano, I was playing this bootleg keyboard which wasn’t as much fun for me, but I loved playing with the Garcia Band because it was just a different musical setting. It wasn’t quite as exploratory – it was more about the songs themselves.

More structured…

Yeah, more structured, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that the Grateful Dead was this incredibly loose structured thing – it wasn’t. It’s been given a lot of credit – or sometimes blame – for being this improvisatory, totally spontaneous thing, and it really wasn’t – certainly by the time that I got into the group. It was very structured – too structured for me frankly. It was way more structured than my band. I know that may surprise people, but it’s absolutely true. If you listen to the songs and divorce yourself from this notion that they were always changing things you’ll see that things weren’t that different.

A lot of songs were played in the same positions in the sets and so forth.

Not just that, but also that the songs were played virtually the same way every night – because that’s a fact – but even down to where they would play the songs. It was so structured. They were already entrenched in tradition by the time that I got there. I would say things like, "Let’s start with the drums!" and they would say, "Oh no – we can’t do that!" I would say, "Let’s open with "Wharf Rat" tonight" and they would say, "Oh no man, that always comes after the drums." (laughter) I’d say, "Let’s play China>Rider to open the show" and they’d say, "Oh no that always comes in the first part of the second set." (laughter) It was just unbelievable. So this myth about the spontaneity of it was just that, a myth. That was a little disappointing to me because I was never into that. I wanted it to be continually fresh.

What about when you played with the Other Ones – how much improvisation was going on there?

Well, although everyone had a great interest in stretching it, and actually being truly spontaneous and in the moment, it doesn’t happen like that that often. It’s still more like the later Grateful Dead days…

You seemed to throw a few curveballs at the guys though, here and there – like at Darien Lake, Let It Grow into Tennessee Jed – Bobby looked a bit surprised!

Right – that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. They like it, they’re into the improvisation, but it’s sort of throwin’ them for a loop because they’re not used to it. I’ll do that kind of thing at anytime at my gigs.

But it definitely seemed like there were some improvisational moments with the Other Ones…

Certainly between Kimock and myself, and between Alphonso and myself, but we didn’t do it a lot. The format is not that open to it because the Dead’s music is not really open to being totally spontaneous in that way. I know this might not be what you want to hear (laughs). I guarantee you it was in the first ten years of the band – they really were everything they were purported to be – but later things changed. If you think about it, you’ll know I’m right. I mean how different really were the versions of songs night to night? They really were not that different. You’d never hear them go from China Cat into Me and My Uncle, which they could have because it’s the same feel as I Know You Rider, then back into China Cat or whatever. It just wouldn’t happen.

So that kind of thing must be one of your main goals with your band?

Sure! With my band, that’s something we always aim for, and that’s one of the things I’m most proud of with my new live record. It showcases the spontaneity of my band in a live situation where you never know what might happen next – most of the time, we don’t know what’s coming (laughs) and that’s part of the beauty of it. That’s what you’ll experience with this new live record of mine – always new, instant compositional moments that happen in the moment and differ from night to night. With my band, my guys are ready to turn on a dime and go wherever. That’s what makes the performances very exciting.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting thoughts from a man on the inside.
This backs up what Swami said too, about them not being a jam band.

It is true that the songs were structured...
Take Minglewood after re-arranged in the 80s...
Verse>Jerry Solo>Verse>Brent Solo>Bobby Solo>Jerry Solo>Culmination Jam>Verse

Anyhow, over the course of years these songs would change, somewhat. Look at LIG... it never really changed other than tempo.
Very interesting that they shot him down on some of the setlist changes. They were into that in 85 for example... I wonder why they changed?
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kochman wrote:
Very interesting thoughts from a man on the inside.
This backs up what Swami said too, about them not being a jam band.

It is true that the songs were structured...
Take Minglewood after re-arranged in the 80s...
Verse>Jerry Solo>Verse>Brent Solo>Bobby Solo>Jerry Solo>Culmination Jam>Verse

Anyhow, over the course of years these songs would change, somewhat. Look at LIG... it never really changed other than tempo.
Very interesting that they shot him down on some of the setlist changes. They were into that in 85 for example... I wonder why they changed?


I don't think it has anything to do with them being or not being a jam band. To me, the jam band aspect is what you do with the jam portions of the songs themselves, regardless of what order they are played in. Let's face it, some of the GD's best periods had very static set lists.

Frankly, I think it was Bruce who didn't really get it. His idea of jamming was to play these big grandiose chords on top of everything else until the entire thing sounded like a brownish-grey blob. Yuck. More than anyone who ever played with the band, his sound and personality simply did not fit.

And some songs are just better openers than others --- Shakedown, Bucket, 1/2 Step, Stranger, Jack Straw -- they just belong in that slot. If I got sick of hearing Walkin Blues in the three-hole, it was because I wasn't that keen on that song, not because it was being played third. The idea that you'd just suddenly open a show with Wharf Rat is silly to me. That song is not an opener. There is a reason that the big ballads came in the second half of the second set -- that's where they fit the best. "Let's open with drums!" Come on, man... that's just a cheap adolescent trick. Now China> Rider, that would have been a hot opener.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So if they changed things up would that have been more or less accordian? They might have done it to prevent him from dropping an Accordian Odessey into the opener!

But I did like most of his other aditions he made, esspecially the Grand Piano sound.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dead in 2003 did open second set with Drums>Space a lot. They may have not been listening to him then but someone must have been. I have a few Bruce shows and he never opens with Wharf Rat either. The song normally comes later in the show. So now Bruuuuuuuucccccceeeeeeeeee is contradicting himself.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I prefer music with some "structure," which is one reason why I tend to like the Modern Era of Grateful Dead better, which was as Bruce mentioned very structured. It does relate to my other point about Jam Band or not, in that the Grateful Dead were not always looking to "explore," as a generic jam band would.

Thank god the rest of the band put the smack down on Bruce's lame ideas. They mixed up the setlists pretty well - we can all find areas of complaint I guess - but I for one take/took comfort in being able to rely on a certain structure of a GD show.

I do find those Bruce comments annoying...

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 7:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

swamiGD80s wrote:
Thank god the rest of the band put the smack down on Bruce's lame ideas.

So, when they did it in 85, you like it, but when Bruce suggested it in 91, you don't. Ok.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kochman wrote:
swamiGD80s wrote:
Thank god the rest of the band put the smack down on Bruce's lame ideas.

So, when they did it in 85, you like it, but when Bruce suggested it in 91, you don't. Ok.

In 85 Minglewood was still in the first set and drums/space still occupied the mid or late 2nd set spot. They mixed things up but still the meat of the sets were still fairly traditional.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Duderino wrote:
Kochman wrote:
swamiGD80s wrote:
Thank god the rest of the band put the smack down on Bruce's lame ideas.

So, when they did it in 85, you like it, but when Bruce suggested it in 91, you don't. Ok.

In 85 Minglewood was still in the first set and drums/space still occupied the mid or late 2nd set spot. They mixed things up but still the meat of the sets were still fairly traditional.

Dude, are you denying that they played magic setlist in 85? I don't get what you point it... Everything didn't change, sure, but Bruce had a couple of ideas... are they really that completely different from what took place in 85?

I also can't figure out why Swami would be annoyed by Bruce's comments. What specifically annoyed you Swami? I don't imagine I will ever get a response.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know about Swami, but I'll tell you what annoyed me. The ideas the Bruce cites for changing up the set list are mostly stupid ones. I can see opening with China> Rider (a la Eyes in 91) but the others are just lame -- like some of the placements songs are getting now. They're playing great songs, but sometimes in very weird order. Changing the order is not the same as improvisation. That seems to be what Bruce is saying.

The Dead would play several songs every night that were long and jammed out and plenty open to improvisation. If only Bruce had actually known how to play the kind of music the Dead played -- then maybe he'd have gotten it. Listen to some of those 91 shows. Who is it that's droning away on the same chords over and over? It's Bruce. Shit, Bobby was all over the place. Jerry had his pedals to play with and was always playing something fresh -- even on Big River or Mexicali blues. Hell, Bird Song was just one big improvisational jam.! Too many songs to mention. I just find Bruce's comments to be weird in the extreme.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kochman wrote:
Duderino wrote:
Kochman wrote:
swamiGD80s wrote:
Thank god the rest of the band put the smack down on Bruce's lame ideas.

So, when they did it in 85, you like it, but when Bruce suggested it in 91, you don't. Ok.

In 85 Minglewood was still in the first set and drums/space still occupied the mid or late 2nd set spot. They mixed things up but still the meat of the sets were still fairly traditional.

Dude, are you denying that they played magic setlist in 85? I don't get what you point it... Everything didn't change, sure, but Bruce had a couple of ideas... are they really that completely different from what took place in 85?

I also can't figure out why Swami would be annoyed by Bruce's comments. What specifically annoyed you Swami? I don't imagine I will ever get a response.

No, I'm not denying it.
Lets take these three for example -

06-28-85 Hershey Park Stadium, Hershey, Pa. (Fri)
1: Cold Rain> Promised, Ramble On, Superstitious> Bottom, Bird Song> Comes A Time> Deal
2: Music> Tom Thumb Blues, Estimated> Terrapin> Drumz> Miracle> Morning Dew> Throwing Stones> NFA E: Day Job

09-15-85 Devore Field, Southwestern Col., Chula Vista, Ca. (Sun)
1: Alabama> Promised, West L. A., Mama Tried> Big River, Dupree's, Smokestack> Deal
2: Scarlet> Fire, Samson, She Belongs To Me, Truckin> Comes A Time> Around> Drumz> U. S. Blues> Satisfaction E: Brokedown

11-16-85 Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, Ca. (Sat)
1: Bucket> Sugaree> El Paso, Dupree's, Rooster, West L. A., Let It Grow
2: Tennessee Jed, Cumberland, Miracle> Crazy Fingers> Drumz> Comes A Time> Gimme Some Lovin> Truckin> Black Peter> Good Lovin E: Day Job


Hershey you have the Jerry trifecta, and a Music>Tom Thumbs set 2 opener, but other than that its pretty normal.
Chula Vista. Most of the show is pretty "normal" (Smokestack is placed in the first set but its not a completely crazy choice) The 2nd set would have been pretty standard if Jerry had remembered to go into drums.
Long Beach - standard except for the fun T Jed, Cumberland set 2 opener. But the basic structures of these shows and MOST of the song placements were standard. They did not completely rearrange the entire setlists. They threw some curveballs and mixed it up but trust me I saw several shows like this in 85:
04-01-85 Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland, Me. (Mon)
1: Bertha> Greatest, West L. A., Rooster, Bird Song, Tom Thumb Blues, L. L. Rain> Might As Well
2: China Cat> I Know You Rider, Estimated> Eyes> Drumz> Other One> Stella Blue> Around> NFA E: Baby Blue

I think Bruce wanted them to go completely out of the box and didn't quite understand the "flow" of the modern show. I think those crazy choices would have worked in 73-74, but 15-20 years later, they had a format that worked for them. There was still room for mixing things up, and I'm glad they took a few more chances with him, but when you are in a working band, sometimes habits are hard to break and if you are doing a show and your fans expect no repeats for at least a few shows, what you do if some player decides to do Sugar Mag as a set one closer when you usually end the show with it. End the concert with BIODTL ???


Laughing

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think he was talking about 1-3 changes per show... not a complete redesigning... anyhow, we can never know for sure, but that seems to be what he said.
He was saying, hey, let's open with a Wharf Rat. Not, hey, let's open with a Wharf Rat and play Bucket out of space and encore it with LRR.
They had started shows with Drums. They had opened sets with Dews... He wasn't requesting totally earth shattering things here.

I am fairly certain Bruce has the miniscule intellect required to understand what
was the structure/flow of a modern setlist. It isn't hard, and as a very talented musician, I think he got it.

Certainly, 3/9/85 had a wierd as hell setlist...
First set opens with Bertha> Saturday Night> Sugaree
Second set pre-drums China Cat> Cumberland> Miracle> Eyes>
That is pretty damn odd... and I don't think he would have made it that much odder. And, even if he had, why would that be a problem?
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the thing is, in 1990 before he joined, they were mixing things up a bit - the Fall 89 and Spring 90 shows certainly have some cool setlists (opening or closing 1st sets with H/S/F, Estimated>Blow Away>DS from the Miami shows, the 3/28/90 pre-drums) etc...so I dont understand the bitching. Maybe he just wanted more unusual stuff more often, instead of how they would dangle it in front of us for a show or two, then go back to business as usual...I dont know. Maybe Jerry was just a stubborn crank.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the question to ask is, how often did those weird change-ups actually work? What was that weird China> ?????> Rider they played in the 80s? Can't remember what song they sandwiched in there, but they pretty much blew it as far as I can remember. And as far as rearranging a few songs, they often did do that. Maybe not often enough for Bruce, but on occasion. Take June 91 they played all kinds of weird sets. Eyes opener 6/17. The infamous Throwin Stones sandwich on 6/20. It happened. I don't know if that was Bruce-inspired, but they did it sometimes. But if they'd done it every show, it wouldn't have been special anymore.

Go back to that old thing about how the Dead is like baseball. I think there's a lot of insight there, beyond some of the silliness. There is a rhythm to a baseball game that is appealing. You come to expect certain things -- nine innings, the 7th inning stretch. You have 4 or 5 starting pitchers who start the game because that's what they're good at. You don't start your closing pitcher.

It's what happens within the innings that's important. I'm far less concerned about set order than what happens inside the songs themselves.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

snow_and_rain wrote:
I think the question to ask is, how often did those weird change-ups actually work? What was that weird China> ?????> Rider they played in the 80s? Can't remember what song they sandwiched in there, but they pretty much blew it as far as I can remember. And as far as rearranging a few songs, they often did do that. Maybe not often enough for Bruce, but on occasion. Take June 91 they played all kinds of weird sets. Eyes opener 6/17. The infamous Throwin Stones sandwich on 6/20. It happened. I don't know if that was Bruce-inspired, but they did it sometimes. But if they'd done it every show, it wouldn't have been special anymore.

Go back to that old thing about how the Dead is like baseball. I think there's a lot of insight there, beyond some of the silliness. There is a rhythm to a baseball game that is appealing. You come to expect certain things -- nine innings, the 7th inning stretch. You have 4 or 5 starting pitchers who start the game because that's what they're good at. You don't start your closing pitcher.

It's what happens within the innings that's important. I'm far less concerned about set order than what happens inside the songs themselves.

Good point!

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Duderino wrote:
snow_and_rain wrote:
I think the question to ask is, how often did those weird change-ups actually work? What was that weird China> ?????> Rider they played in the 80s? Can't remember what song they sandwiched in there, but they pretty much blew it as far as I can remember. And as far as rearranging a few songs, they often did do that. Maybe not often enough for Bruce, but on occasion. Take June 91 they played all kinds of weird sets. Eyes opener 6/17. The infamous Throwin Stones sandwich on 6/20. It happened. I don't know if that was Bruce-inspired, but they did it sometimes. But if they'd done it every show, it wouldn't have been special anymore.

Go back to that old thing about how the Dead is like baseball. I think there's a lot of insight there, beyond some of the silliness. There is a rhythm to a baseball game that is appealing. You come to expect certain things -- nine innings, the 7th inning stretch. You have 4 or 5 starting pitchers who start the game because that's what they're good at. You don't start your closing pitcher.

It's what happens within the innings that's important. I'm far less concerned about set order than what happens inside the songs themselves.

Good point!


I believe Thugmusk was in the listening party (I missed it but scrolled thru some of the comments) and recommended this one. China Cat-Crazy Fingers-Rider. I don't know about what the best source is or anything.

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7 29 88 Laguna Seca

Iko Iko, Walkin' Blues, Candyman, Queen Jane Approximately, Althea, Blow Away, Cassidy-> Deal China Cat Sunflower-> Crazy Fingers-> I Know You Rider-> Playin' In The Band-> Drums-> Space-> The Wheel-> Gimme Some Lovin'-> Believe It Or Not-> Sugar Magnolia, E: Black Muddy River

perhaps this is and example of what snow_and_rain was speaking of, the weird China> ?????> Rider.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, that's the one. I just re-listened to it, and it's better than I remembered. A little awkward moving into Crazy, but otherwise not bad. The transition back to IKYR is pretty cool. But I think that one of the things that really makes it cool is that it is such a rarity to split up that classic pairing. And for it to be cool in that way, you really need to establish a pattern of playing those songs together, and keep that pattern going. There was a reason why they always played China>Rider -- it's because they had honed that transition into a seamless thing of beauty.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just another thought on Honrsby's remarks. He could feel a little jaded to see his "heroes" in real life and be real people. His introduction to the world of the Dead was a lot different than I am sure he was thinking it was from when he was in his high school G Dead cover band. Another reason why they might not have taken his suggestions seriously was he wasn't a full time member of the band. I am sure they listened to Vinny more than him on song choices.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

snow_and_rain wrote:
Yep, that's the one. I just re-listened to it, and it's better than I remembered. A little awkward moving into Crazy, but otherwise not bad. The transition back to IKYR is pretty cool. But I think that one of the things that really makes it cool is that it is such a rarity to split up that classic pairing. And for it to be cool in that way, you really need to establish a pattern of playing those songs together, and keep that pattern going. There was a reason why they always played China>Rider -- it's because they had honed that transition into a seamless thing of beauty.


I think a better example, which chinarider79 brought up, was the Scarlet-Bucket (or Scarlet Hell if you will,) not so hot, at least the one I remember hearing. From what we were discussing, they played this one three times I believe. Pretty sure people in the crowd were annoyed that they didn't play Fire, among other things.
I am surprised, after listening to China Cat-Crazy Fingers-Rider, that they pulled that one off so well. The transition back into Rider isn't the best one ever or anything, but it is a pretty solid combo.
Also good points dogstarz.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sometimes those wacky combos did work out...
The first S>Touch>Fire was pretty damn cool... the 2nd not so much.

I do agree with DS, that Bruce was the new guy, and they knew he wasn't going to be around forever.

Too bad they didn't at least work out Stander on the Mountain better, cool song.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moreover, some of the coolest moments for me are in the Bruce era, and he probably had something to do with it (which I always suspected due to his strong presence in critical moments of such transitions).

S>Victim>Fire from 8/16/91 (which also had an unheard of at that point 1st set Dark Star).

There was a great S>Bucket too, in March I think.

6/17/91's wackiness is also clearly attributable to Bruce, and a rock solid show!
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