Well-Matched: The Best of Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia

Well-Matched: The Best of Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia

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by Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders
     
 

During his three decades of musical exploration, Jerry Garcia called upon a seemingly endless array of collaborators; but few brought out his fire and sensitivity as well as Merl Saunders. This compilation, which collects ten tunes -- including a previously unreleased cover of Smokey Robinson's classic "ISee more details below

Overview

During his three decades of musical exploration, Jerry Garcia called upon a seemingly endless array of collaborators; but few brought out his fire and sensitivity as well as Merl Saunders. This compilation, which collects ten tunes -- including a previously unreleased cover of Smokey Robinson's classic "I Second That Emotion" that twists and turns its way through nearly ten minutes of improvisation -- turns the spotlight on the seamless merging of the two musicians' disparate yet ultimately complementary styles. Keyboardist Saunders, a denizen of the jazz world, imparts a soulful coziness with his organ and clavinet lines, particularly on an up-tempo take on "The Harder They Come," which closes out the disc on a sunny note. Most of Well Matched has a similarly friendly feel, from the playful spin the duo put on Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train" -- the King would probably have approved, despite his bafflement as to how they managed to extend it for a full 12 minutes -- to the smoky sensuality they use to coat "After Midnight." The originals, while not as immediately infectious as the more familiar tunes, insinuate themselves into the pleasure center without too much trouble, particularly the sultry fusion excursion "Welcome to the Basement," which makes good use of the Tower of Power horn section. Garcia fans, who might not have easy access to the Saunders sides that most of these tunes were culled from, would do well to match themselves with Well Matched.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
For five years in the early '70s Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders headed up a loose-knit club band in the San Francisco area (the group never had an official name) specializing in a graceful mix of jazz, R&B, blues, gospel, and light funk with hints of bop, fusion, and even reggae. Aside from the two-volume Live at Keystone (1973), most of the group's recorded output appeared on various Saunders releases on Fantasy Records, and this remarkably cohesive compilation picks key tracks from all of these, with roughly half of the set coming from the Keystone LPs. Garcia is in full flight here as a guitarist, with Saunders' soul-jazz organ giving things a wonderfully fluid feel, and the end result is a kind of laid-back West Coast jazz-rock that is very much the sum of its parts. Among the highlights in what is a very strong sequence are the nearly 12-minute version of "Mystery Train" that opens things here, the floating elegance of the instrumental "Merl's Tune," the fusion-feel "Welcome to the Basement" with a guest shot from the Tower of Power Horns, and an interesting take on Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come," which was still a relatively unknown tune when this version was recorded in 1973. Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead fans will no doubt appreciate all of this, but Well-Matched also functions as a kind of introduction to Saunders as well, whose good-natured and pop-inflected approach to soul-jazz deserves to be better known.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/23/2006
Label:
Fantasy
UPC:
0888072300194
catalogNumber:
30019
Rank:
33440

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Jerry Garcia   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Merl Saunders   Primary Artist,Organ,Synthesizer,Piano,Clavinet
Kenneth Nash   Percussion
Tom Fogerty   Rhythm Guitar
Vassar Clements   Violin
David Grisman   Mandolin
John Kahn   Bass,Bass Guitar
Bill Kreutzmann   Drums
Eddie Moore   Drums,Saw
Bill Vitt   Drums
Eccleston W. Wainwright   Drums
Bob Drew   Alto Saxophone

Technical Credits

Jimmy Cliff   Composer
J.J. Cale   Composer
Bob Dylan   Composer
Jerry Garcia   Producer
Merl Saunders   Producer
Tom Fogerty   Producer
John Kahn   Producer
Junior Parker   Composer
Doc Pomus   Composer
Jimmy Rogers   Composer
Bill Vitt   Producer
Sam Phillips   Composer
Joe Tarantino   Remastering
Annie Leibovitz   Cover Photo
Blair Jackson   Essay
Tower Of Power Horns   Contributor

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