The musical collaboration that eventually became Hot Tuna started long before the name of the group even existed, even before the collaboration between guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady manifested itself in the 60's rock band Jefferson Airplane. Actually, Hot Tuna got its start in the lat 50's when Jorma and Jack started to discover the mutual pleasures of playing music together. Now, with the end of 2002 and the 2003 New Year upon us, Hot Tuna remains a significant and active piece of the American music scene, over 40 years later.
On December 14, I got my first opportunity to see Hot Tuna perform live (and acoustic) on the first of a two night stand at the intimate Cedar Cultural Center. Since I purchased my first Hot Tuna album in 1973, Phosphorescent Rat, I have wanted to see Jorma and Jack perform live. It was with great excitement and anticipation that I sat down for my first live experience with these two musical greats.
After a short opening set by Ramsey Midwood, featuring 30 minutes of original songs about life and hard times sprinkled with a dose of tongue-in-cheek humor, Hot Tuna took the stage to an enthusiastic round of applause. The crowd was an interesting mixture of young and old, including obvious long time fans of the duo from the Jefferson Airplane/electric Hot Tuna days to a whole new generation of Hot Tuna fans. The duo opened with "Search My Heart," performing with relaxed enthusiasm and obviously enjoying what they were doing on stage. Between songs Jorma and Jack talked some, joked with each other and performed song after song with equal skill. Through "Trouble In Mind," "New Song For The Morning" and Rev. Gary Davis' classic, "Death Don't Have No Mercy," Hot Tuna entertained the rapt audience at The Cedar. Interestingly, despite key, rhythm and style changes during the songs, Jorma and Jack rarely had to look at each other, knowing instinctively what the other was about to do at any given time, remaining in perfect synch.
As Hot Tuna's performance carried on, Jorma and Jack performed a number fo familiar tunes from previous recordings as well as some new material that included instrumental numbers as well as vocal performances. Songs "I See The Light" (one of my personal favorites), "San Francisco Bay Blues," "Embryonic Journey," and "Just Because" from Jorma's latest solo release Blue Country Heart, among the many performed, were filled with Jorma Kaukonen's exceptional, distinctive guitar and Jack Casady's signature bass lines.
The evening performance concluded with the encore, "Hesitation Blues" and left the appreciative audience begging for more. As the crowd left The Cedar, I overheard nothing but good comments about the performance and an indication by several people that they were coming back the next night to here the duo perform again. Even though I was unable to come back the next evening, after 30 years of waiting to see Hot Tuna perform live, I went away satisfied and looking forward to seeing Hot Tuna again in the not so distant future.
To find out more about upcoming shows at the Cedar Cultural Center, visit their website at www.thecedar.org.
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