Dead Percussionists Come To Life
The Grateful Dead may have folded in the wake of Jerry Garcia's death, but life and music continues on for many of the group's former members, including drummer/percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill KreThe Grateful Dead may have folded in the wake of Jerry Garcia's death, but life and music continues on for many of the group's former members, including drummer/percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. A trustee of the U.S. Library of Congress, Hart is a world musician and an accomplished ethnomusicologist, while Kreutzmann has followed his Dead trail into a new group with a set of veteran musicians.
Kreutzmann has hooked up with Journey guitarist Neal Schon and noted blues vocalist Sy Klopps to form the Trichromes. Rounded out by guitarist Ralph Woodson (Hugh Masekela, Buddy Miles) and bassist Ira Walker, the group debuted last October at legendary San Francisco venue the Fillmore, and has released the single "Dice With the Universe" through 33rd Street Records. Written by Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, "Dice" is described as "a song of faith." The disc, which features original artwork by Kreutzmann, is dedicated to the late Ken Kesey and also features the band performing live versions of "New Speedway Boogie" and "Tore Up."
"Dice" can be heard online via the band's trichromes.com site, which is also accessible via dead.net, the online home of the Grateful Dead and all of its associated members and projects.
"Playing with the Trichromes is the most fun I've had plying music this millennium, " Kreutzmann says. "It's been great seeing our old fans coming out and having a good time at the shows."
While Kreutzmann's profile has remained lower than many of his former Dead cohorts, Hart has been on the opposite end of the spectrum. The seemingly never still percussionist has been studying drumming since the late '60s, and has indulged his passion for its pleasures and even therapeutic qualities through myriad projects.
Rykodisc's forthcoming compilation "Over the Edge and Back," attempts to give an overview of that storied, non-Dead career. Due April 23, the set collects eight tracks that stem from his four solo releases: 1990's "At the Edge," 1991's Grammy-winning "Planet Drum," 1996's "Mystery Box," and 1998's "Supralingua." The set is rounded out by "Call to All Nations," written by Hart, Philip Glass, Zakir Hussain, and Giovanni Hidalgo for the opening ceremony of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. The song was originally performed by a collective of 100 drummers at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, and appears on this disc recorded and released for the first time.
Hart, who will in the coming year testify before Congress on the healing power of music, has also produced a disc by Kodo, one of the world's premiere groups of Taiko drummers (Taiko, which literally means "big drum" in Japanese, is a traditional style of drumming). Due out the same day as "Over the Edge," Kodo's Red Ink album "Mondo Head" is driven from a spiritual center. "Air, Water, and our bodies are always changing; constantly recreating life and our environment," Hart writes in the album's liner notes. "So is our music. Such is Kodo's relationship to the world: We drum for life and we live to drum."
The intriguing 11-track album also features Hart, who adds his own touches along with those of an international group of musicians and voices to the thunder of the 13-member Kodo's tapestry. He also introduces various voices into the rhythm, as well as, in the case of the track "Echo Bells," the harmonica of blues great Charlie Musselwhite.
"Part of the vision was ... to add powerful chant to these deep grooves," Hart says. "The effect I was looking for was the one that we achieved; the seamless marriage that represents the multilingual and multicultural world we live in."
Kodo will tour the U.S. in July and August, including a stop at Colorado's famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Prior to the U.S. trek, the group will host its 15th annual Earth Celebration on Japan's Sado Island, as well as stage three performances May 29-31 in Niigata to celebrate the opening of the World Cup soccer tournament, which Japan is hosting this year.
For those who would rather remember the Dead than embark on the continuing long strange trips of its members, Grateful Dead Records has just made available "Dick's Picks Volume 24." This latest document of the band's live prowess stems from a March 23, 1974, show at California's Cow Palace that marked the debut of the Dead's massive 26,000 watt "Wall of Sound" P.A. system, as well as the soon to be staple of its live sets, "Scarlet Begonias." The two-disc set can be ordered from 800-CAL-DEAD or at dead.net.