Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady anchor Hot Tuna Blues, appearing with Charlie Musselwhite at the Count Basie tonight.
Their last time in town, they sold out the Count Basie Theatre for an electrified set that turned the Monmouth Street landmark into a covered-dish casserole of heated jamming. Previous trips Shoreside found them serving up a raw-as-sashimi acoustic tartare, laced with the wasabi wallop of hard-earned crossroads cred.
When Hot Tuna returns to Red Bank this evening, the (alba)core of guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bass ace Jack Casady will be plugged into the power grid for a configuration known as Hot Tuna Blues and they’ll be augmenting their star-kissed side project with some very special headliner-weight friends.
The Shore’s legions of blues buffs already know Charlie Musselwhite as the prolific cat who’s been rightly branded the best blues harmonica player in the business even if it hasn’t stopped him from laying down some fine guitar, aged-whisky vocals, and what’s been shaping up to be the most mature and personal songwriting of his long career.
The Hot Tuna boys (Kaukonen, by the way, is now a septuagenarian) will be acting as “house band” to the mouth-harp master, as well as doing duty for Jim Lauderdale, the Grammy winning country/ bluegrass singer and songwriter whose own well-traveled road runs from Ralph Stanley to The Dixie Chicks and all points between.
Musical compadres since their Summer of Love seasons in the Jefferson Airplane, Kaukonen and Casady have hit the occasional flat notes (and had their slightly painful New Wave flirtations Vital Parts and SVT, respectively) in the course of their long careers. But what started as a moonlighting spinoff (with an original lineup that boasted violin veteran Papa John Creach) evolved into a nimble franchise that navigated into a new century with dignity intact, while the Airplane/Starship crashed into plane-wreck punchlines like We Built This City on Rock and Roll.
Those out trolling for Americana sounds tonight would do well to steer their partyboat to the Count’s canyon; tickets start at 25 bucks and are still available right here.