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Jazz Is Dead: Laughing Water

The acclaimed Grateful Dead tribute band Jazz Is Dead is back for a second swing at improvisational glory with Laughing Water, an inventive, loving interpretation of the Dead’s 1973 album Wake of the Flood, culled from four exploratory live performances. Led by keyboardist T. Lavitz, the group (now a quintet) punches up the intricate work of Garcia, Weir and company and sets it spinning in unexpected directions, playing out the original themes and threads. Lavitz’s percolating organ setting and the dipping, rolling double drum work of Rod Morgenstein and Jeff Sipe give “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” a deep acid jazz-blue flavor, for example, and “Row Jimmy” tells a loopy story through the bent-note exposition of Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks. As an added attraction, this tight band mines the talents of some of the original session players from Wake of the Flood, including Trucks and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux, whose eerie vocal introduction to “Here Comes Sunshine” sets up a wicked carnival medley. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of this thoroughly non-standard tribute work is the quintet’s ability to capture the electricity and emotion of the Dead’s grand live improvisations. A great example of this ability is shown on a dramatic read of Bob Weir’s “Weather Report Suite,” which finds Lavitz and company pulling together the bluegrass and rock threads to create an epic in their own right.

Originally Published