Review and Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents (https://www.dannyzeliskopresents.com/ )
Venue: Celebrity Theatre (https://celebritytheatre.com/ )
Date: Tuesday January 17th, 2023
Tour: Jazz Is Dead XXV Tour
I am so sorry that this review got lost in the weeds. Soon after the show I got really sick with the flu and then got pink eye (from my grandson). I know this review is very late, but it could still be relevant since then band is tour all of 2023.
I have seen 4 different versions of a Grateful Dead concert. I saw the original Grateful Dead back in the 70s and early 80s. Since Jerry’s death I have also seen the rest of the band perform as Dead & Co. I have also seen Bob Weir perform with Wolf Bros. This latest variation is a little different in that instead of performing the music like the original Dead, this new band performs it in a jazz style. Jazz is Dead is an instrumental Grateful Dead cover band that interprets classic Grateful Dead songs with jazz influences.
I am pretty sure that if Gerry Garcia was looking down and saw and heard this band he would be pleased. Gerry, Bobby and the boys were known for their improvisation during live shows. That is one reason why you could attend multiple Grateful Dead shows on the same tour and hear something a little different each night. Jazz by nature is also based on improvisation. So, this is a natural fit for the blending of Grateful Dead music and Jazz.
Don’t expect any vocals during this show, this is an instrumental concert. However, the musicians are extremely talented and their interpretation of the dead songs is fantastic. Personally, I love jazz and I also enjoy Grateful Dead music, so for me this was an extremely enjoyable show. Also be prepared for extended versions of each song. While a normal Grateful Dead song might only be 4 to 7 minutes on an album, at this show that same song might last 10 to 15 minutes. This is not uncommon for when the Grateful Dead also played live the songs would be longer. I remember Sugar Magnolia running for over 15 minutes one night.
The band has consisted of bassist Alphonso Johnson, guitarist Steve Kimock, drummer Pete Lavezzoli, Bobby Lee Rodgers on guitar and banjo.
I was surprised to see a throw back to the late 60s and early 70s as Bobby Lee drove his guitar through a Leslie amplified speaker. You normally only see this speaker connected to a Hammond Organ, but some guitarist liked the sound created by this unique speaker. This speaker has a rotating drum for the lower main speaker and a rotating horn for the treble speaker. The user can change the sound of the music by spinning the drum or horn at different speeds. I have not seen this setup since the 70s and was surprised someone was still using it.
Alphonso played a number of different bass guitars including a 5-string bass and a stick bass. Steve played electric, acoustic and steel guitar. Pete had a simple drum kit and in true jazz style, he played the underlying rhythm for the songs.
They performed 2 sets with the first being about 1 hour and 45 minutes and the second set about 45 minutes. In a lot of ways, you could think of the first set as the main set and the second set the encore. Unfortunately I don’t have the setlist from this show. I was wrapped up in the spirit of the music like everyone else. And for a strange reason, setlist.com does not have the setlist for this show. However, if you go to www.setlist.com and search on Jazz is Dead you can see the setlists from other shows. Just like the Grateful Dead, Jazz is Dead shuffles and changes the setlist each night.
Personally, I loved the show. So did a lot of the audience. There were people dancing the isles and, in a section, off to the side of the stage. At one point the ushers had to come and have people leave the isles because they were blocking them. The other thing I saw were the people outside the venue in the parking lot having tailgate parties and selling all types of Dead merchandise and tie dye tee shirts. It looked like a normal Grateful Dead concert parking lot.
Jazz is Dead is still on tour and on May 18th and 20th they will be performing in Ft Lauderdale and St. Petersburg Florida. In August they will be performing in San Francisco, Washington DC, St Louis, Eugene& Portland Origan and Seattle Washington. You can see all the dates and locations for these and other shows on either their Facebook page or the bandsintown ticket website.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JazzIsDead.Tour/
BandsInTown Website: https://www.bandsintown.com/a/78451-jazz-is-dead
Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved