MY 10 BEST JAMS OF 2011 FEATURING SPECIAL GUESTS

MY 10 BEST JAMS OF 2011 FEATURING SPECIAL GUESTS

Something special happens when great musicians share the stage that can only be found amongst members of the Jam-band scene.

1)   Tea Leaf Green feat. Allie Kral:  “Jackson Hole”

5/27/11 Summercamp; Chillicothe, IL

At first Becca and I were in a bit of a debate over whether we should catch Tea Leaf’s show at the Jagermeister Stage of head to Lotus’ show at the Moonshine Stage. Festivals make it tough for fans sometimes by putting 2 acts you want to see really bad on at the same time. Ultimately we decided to hit Tea Leaf for a bit then head over to the Moonshine Stage for the rest of Lotus’ set. Long story short, we never made it to Lotus, Tea Leaf was kicking some serious ass for the handful of fans who showed up to their set and there was no way we were missing that. The best part of the show came when they invited out Allie Kral of Cornmeal out to play fiddle on a couple of tunes. Man this girl could shred! At bout the 3-minute mark in this track she really lets loose and trades licks with guitarist Josh Clark. The chemistry between the two of them was unbelievable I might add, really feeding off one another. This track and this performance in general was undoubtedly one of my highlights from a weekend full of great performances.

2)   Widespread Panic feat. Trombone Shorty: “Pusherman”

9/16/11 Orpheum Theatre; Boston, MA

The second and final night of Panic’s tour opening run at the Orpheum really brought the heat to Beantown. Being one of only three Northeast dates on the year for Panic, they had to do something special for us, especially with the 2012 hiatus on the horizon. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue opened up both nights with some dirty funk straight from the heart of the Big Easy. On the way up to these shows I remarked at the good chance for them to sit in with Panic. Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed during Panic’s first set, and Trombone Shorty added some brass to “Rebirtha” and “Blackout Blues” to end the set. The real fire did not get ignited until halfway thru their second set though, when he re-emerged onstage for a smoking cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman.” The band as always was firing on all cylinders and was really in sync with their guest too. The track gets frequent airplay on Sirius Jam ON and its always cool to hear a track you got the pleasure of seeing live being held in high regards by the masses.

3)   moe. feat. Bob Weir: “The Other One”> “Smokestack Lightning”> “The Other One”

9/4/11 moe.down; Mohawk, NY 

When Bobby Weir was announced as a special guest at this past year’s moe.down, I knew it would be something special. Although he was only billed as a guest for the Levon Helm Band’s performance, I knew the chances of him sitting in with the festival’s headliner/creators was very high. On Sunday, a day full of rain, we needed something big to lift our spirits. When Bobby came out on stage as moe. started the jam from “Ricky Marten” into “The Other One” everyone went nuts. They played well together and really took the jam into “Smokestack Lightning” to very spacey dimensions. Al Schnier later nominated Bobby for the annual “Mayor of Moe.ville” election and, needless to say, he won by a landslide.

4)   Furthur feat. Larry Campbell: “St. Stephen”

11/10/11 Madison Square Garden; New York, NY

Magic was in the air this particular night as Furthur played a sold out show at MSG. It was as if the band channeled the spirit of past performances at their old stomping grounds. Arguably the best show I saw all year, it was hard to pick a particular track from this show, it was magnificent start to finish. Faced with a hard decision, I have come to the conclusion that this track tops all. The whole place was literally shaking as they jammed through this, and I would not be surprised if they heard us singing along all the way over in Times Square. Larry Campbell brought something unexplainable to the stage, trading leads with John Kadlecik and even adding fiddle on a few tracks. Listen to this whole show immediately, but if you don’t have three hours have your mind blown at least listen to this work of art.

5)   moe. feat. Kyle Hollingsworth: “Happy Hour Hero”

5/29/11 Summercamp; Chillicothe, IL

A weekend full of great music and great memories, one of my fondest came during moe.’s first set on Sunday. String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth was present this weekend specifically for the Everyone Orchestra set conducted by Matt Bulter, which collects artists present for free form improvisation at various festivals. Hollingsworth made a quick stop over at the Moonshine stage to join moe. for this stellar track before heading to the Red Barn for the Orchestra’s performance. Adding some great playing always leads the band to take it to another levek to keep up and this was a prime example. Just before the 7-minute mark after Chuck lets loose on the Framptonian, Kyle’s playing is really made evident. Check out this prime example of what the Everyone Orchestra is all about.

6)   Bruce Hornsby  the Noisemakers feat. Bob Weir: “Jack Straw”

9/4/11 moe.down; Mohawk, NY

This could not have come a minute later. Seeking refuge with the Happy Hour Heroes during terrible rain, Bruce Hornsby and his band the Noisemakers was playing the main stage and it was perfect music to kick back and relax to while the storm blew over. When Bob Weir came and joined them though I had to get back in the action. Bob and Brucehave plaenty of history together and that speaks through their music when they share the stage. From the 90’s era Grateful Dead to the inaugural Furthur Fest and late 90’s touring with the Other Ones, Bruce has brought energy and skillful piano playing to Grateful Dead music. This take on “Jack Straw” was no exception and was in my opinion one of the best demonstrations of Bob Weir’s vocals I have seen in recent years.

7)   Dave Matthews Band feat. Leon Mobely: “Two Step”

6/2/11 DMB Caravan; Atlantic City, NJ

The first of 4 summer festivals for the Dave Matthews Band, who took the majority of the year off the road, where better to bring a travelling roadshow than Atlantic City? This track from the last night of the fest features Leon Mobely, percussionist for Damian Marley’s Band on djembe. Part of me thinks that this show, mainly for this track, should have been chosen over the Sunday night show as the official live release from the weekend. Mobely trades heavy beats with DMB’s drummer Carter Beauford and created a presence onstage for himself, fueling this spectacular jam. For any of you folks out there who are ignorant enough to say DMB does not jam, listen to this track and get back to me.

8)   Gov’t Mule feat. Hook Herrera, Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, Ron Holloway: “32/20 Blues”

6/4/11 Mountain Jam; Hunter, NY

Warren Haynes may very well be one person on the jam scene to have played with anyone you can think of. So when you bring his band Gov’t Mule and a few dozen acts from the genre to his annual festival on Hunter Mountain Ski Resort, get ready for plenty of sit ins. Whether Warren is playing with them or they are paying with him, its going down. One song that showed off particular improvisational skill was Mule’s take on Robert Johnson’s “32/20 Blues.” A frequent of the band, this particular version featured Hook Herrera on harmonica, Warren Haynes Band’s Ron Holloway on saxophone, Luther Dickinson on slide guitar and his brother and fellow North Mississippi All-star Cody on percussions. With the stage full of great players, they tore the song to bits, teaching the blues a little bit about jam. Herrera and Holloway were trading solos in between Luther and Warren splitting blistering licks. My highlight of the festival, this version of “32/20” really brought the jam to the mountain.

9)    Furthur feat. Warren Haynes: “Viola Lee Blues”> “Turn On Your Lovelight” 

7/15/11 All Good Festival; Masontown, WV

My first trip down to the annual All Good festival boasted quite the lineup, featuring Furthur, Warren, moe., Umphrey’s and Primus among many others. And like I mentioned above, put Waren Haynes in the mix, and there’s bound to be a friend of his there happy to invite him onstage. This weekend he would join Friday night headliners Furthur towards the end of their first set. Having toured with Phil and Bobby several times in Phil and Friends and the Dead, there’s no doubt he knows the music and how to take it places. Earlier this year during Furthur’s Spring tour I got to see Warren join the band for there entire second set on March 13 at the Best Buy Theatre. Tonight though they brought some fire to Marvin’s Mountaintop. The jams between verses of Viola Lee left me astounded, and when they brought it right home with a jam into Lovelight they were connecting. Kadlecik and Haynes were flowing beautifully together, intertwined like they had been playing together for years. The music brought them together and Phil was smiling ear-to-ear seeing how much pleasure they bringing to us.

10)  Allman Brothers Band feat. Scott Murawski, Kebbi Williams: “Mountain Jam”

4/16/11 Wanee Festival; Live Oak, FL

Last but certainly not least, this jam from the last night of their festival down in Florida at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park really reinforced for me the fact that the Allman Brothers Band are some of the true pioneers of improvisational music. With their current lineup boasting the double entendre of guitar virtuosos in Derek Truck and Warren Haynes, to add a few guests to the mix was just an added bonus. Fittingly, “Mountain Jam” featured Max Creek guitarist Scott Murawski on guitar and Atlanta based musician Kebbi Williams on saxophone. With the triple threat of guitarists on stage they really gave new meaning to the name of this song, stretching it well over twenty minutes and sporting all the talent on stage.

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