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Album Review

Like its predecessor, Live at Keystone (1973), and the subsequent release, Keystone Encores, Vol. 2 (1988), this vinyl and cassette release contains music compiled from July 10 and 11, 1973 at the Keystone in Berkeley, CA. Each of the aforementioned titles features Merl Saunders (keyboards) and Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) co-leading a rhythm section of John Kahn (bass) and Bill Vitt (percussion). The duo of Garcia andSaunders began gigging in and around San Francisco when the Grateful Dead weren't otherwise keeping Garcia busy. By mid-1973 the band was virtually a fixture at the Keystone and as the six sides on the platter reveal, their languid and unhurried style was the perfect blend of spontaneous improvisation and skilled musicianship. In particular, Garcia and Saunders carved out a fresh extension for Garcia to feed his insatiable love for jazz-flavored R&B. The combination of Saunders' sweet and soulful organ leads and Garcia's crystalline intonations are flawlessly supported by Kahn's assertive, yet elegant interjections. One prime example is the cover of "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" as Kahn steps up to punctuate the established melody with a harmonic line that seems to come second-nature. Garcia's familiarity with "High Heel Sneakers," "I Second That Emotion," and the decidedly Chicago-style influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "One Kind Favor" should come as no surprise as the Grateful Dead included them as part of their incipient repertoire prior to the band penning most of their own songs. Enthusiasts of this platter should check out the remaining Live at Keystone, Keystone Encores, and especially the triple-CD Pure Jerry: Keystone Berkeley, September 1, 1974 (2004) — containing an entire concert by a slightly reconfigured lineup with Martin Fierro (saxophone/flute/percussion) and Paul Humphrey (drums).

Keystone Encores, Bill Vitt
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