Melvin Seals and JGB Aren't the Jerry Garcia Band -- But That's Okay

What would Jerry do?

That's a question posed by a bumper sticker, but it also adds context to this query: If a band exclusively plays the music of another person or group, whether dead or alive, shouldn't that group then be considered a tribute band and have a name reflective of such?

It's a question Melvin Seals and JGB should contemplate. JGB stands for Jerry Garcia Band. Jerry Garcia's dead; it was his band; he was the leader and founder.

Melvin Seals and JGB
Melvin Seals and JGB

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Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Central Phoenix

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Melvin Seals and JGB are scheduled to perform Wednesday, July 25, at Crescent Ballroom.

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Yet Seals — who did perform in the Jerry Garcia Band for 15 years (which is only the third-longest tenure in the band) — says on his website that he "aims to continue the group's legacy." That's all well and fine, but the same can be said for True 2 Crue or Dark Star Orchestra or Purple Reign — all acts acknowledging that they are tribute bands intent on replicating the work of another.

Okay, so Seals, a fantastic electric organ player with a decidedly funky side who shone on Garcia's more rhythm and blues, gospel, and soul-influenced songs, was in the band a really long time (though not as long as former bassist John Kahn, who first played with Garcia and Howard Wales in 1970 on Hooteroll and spent more than 20 years in JGB). But it wasn't his band. Not even the Grateful Dead continued to call themselves the Grateful Dead when Jerry died.

Making matters worse, none of the other current JGB members — bassist Jimmy Teabeau, Tempe guitarist Dave Hebert (who plays with local Grateful Dead cover band Xtra Ticket), and drummer Pete Lavezzoli — ever played with Garcia in any form.

It's something of a conundrum. However, if the name means less than the music — and really, it should — by all means, attend the show. Much of Garcia's solo music had a much more spiritual side than his overall body of work with the Dead. Garcia's influences were widely varied, and he was a lover of Motown, soul, R&B, classic gospel, jazz, and reggae. He was deftly able to weave it all together into a fresh sound that allowed for soulful send-ups, extended improvisation and intense jamming — much like the work in his other band.

While clearly something different, this band — tribute by name or not — is faithful to Garcia's catalog. Seals didn't pick just anyone to cover Jerry, and all are top-notch musicians who decisively step into the moment. Seals, too, is way above board, a wizard of the electric piano and Hammond B-3 organ. Seals' rave-ups are as much gospel-inspired (as a youngster, Seals played music in his church) as psychedelic in nature and bring a spontaneous deep groove just made for spinners.

While Garcia's catalog is deep — and the set changes every night — songs finding their way onto the tour include "Ruben and Cherise," "Cats Down Under the Stars," "Deal," "Catfish John," "Russian Lullaby," "Birdsong," and Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." And that's just a dip in the Kool-Aid bucket.

So, let's face it: Seals means well. As is frequently stated in numerous articles, Seals and Garcia were close friends. When he says, "aims to continue the group's legacy," he's doing it out of love for the man, love for the man's music, and appreciation for the fans who want to hear Garcia's songs live and breathe.

So it's mostly all right, though maybe changing the name to something like For the Love of Jerry (also a bumper sticker) would certainly further clarify things without diminishing the intention.

 
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9 comments
AbearsJager
AbearsJager

Quite possibly the dumbest article I have ever written.  What's wrong with journalism these days?  Can't pay someone decent  money so they hire wannabe's to write?  Seriously, I will no longer be picking up this paper because more and more it's becoming a waste of my time.  

 

In a nutshell, this article is a contradiction and should have never been written.

AZLumpy
AZLumpy

No review of the actual show?  I know I should't be surprised.   New Times - "making gross generalizations about things they know nothing about"  Keep up the good work.   Can't wait for another article like "Cheese, it's not quite Milk but it's still good"

kheade
kheade

New Times music reviews of jam bands consistently suck.  A journalist should learn more about the topics they cover rather rely on negativity to make their reviews seem hip.  Dave Hebert is a local legend, and the article barely covered his contribution to the band. 

Instead, the author prefers to stick with his negative comments on JGB. If he would do some investigative research (interviewing SOMEONE), he could have explained the why the name is shortened to JGB rather than changing it all together.  The Dead briefly toured as The Other Ones, but then shortened the name of The Grateful Dead to The Dead.

The New Times should seek out some people who understand jam bands to write reviews.

AZLumpy
AZLumpy

How many people are in the Glenn Miller Orchestra are original members?  At least Melvin was a member, and was giving the blessing of Garcia's estate.   John Kahn and David Kemper were original members of the Jerry Garcia Band and also in "Melvin Seals and JGB" (AKA @jgbband)  John Kahn died in 1996 and Kemper went on to work for Dylan.  DSO and other tribute bands don't have original members in them.   But what is missing is the real story of the local guitarist @daveabear  does good on national stage, but stories like that don't run in the New Times.  NT articles are always the hipster, "I am too cool for this" type of article like this piece (of ....).  It's too bad the NT has no competition.  Otherwise people might avoid it.  Oh well.  Have your fun NT, while it lasts, negativity is what we need more of, not!

Kelerae4
Kelerae4

This article is ridiculous, Let them hate Melvin! I love me some Melvin Seals and JGB, and The Schwag of course!

Todd
Todd

I find this to be a pretty Stupid article, for the most part anyways, especially considering that Melvin did change the name from Jerry Garcia Band to just the initials JGB. The finer parts of the article complementing Melvin on his great talent for the organ is good though, as is his complements for the rest of band, and it's like he said, this is a great band to go out and see to soak up and share some of the great musical vibes Jerry blessed this world with, that JGB is keeping alive to this day.

Benny
Benny

Thanks for clarifying Glenn. We weren't sure if Jerry was in the band now or not. Maybe you should go see the band live before trying to tell us what Jerry would do.

Kylebirk
Kylebirk

uhhh, its still the jerry garcia band, go see and decide for yourself. stupid article.

 
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