RED BANK: BASIE REELS IN FRESH HOT TUNA
Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen bring their Electric Hot Tuna set back to the Basie stage after Vince Herman (below) and Leftover Salmon serve up the openers.
While “finely aged” is an asset for commodities like wine and cheese, it’s traditionally not much of a selling point when it comes to seafood. But if the notion of Leftover Salmon and Hot Tuna comes across as less than fresh here in the doggie-bag baking days of summer, be assured that the hard-touring, veteran roots music acts retain an appeal that’s anchored in a certain timeless quality, one that transcends a given flavor of the month, or even catch of the day.
When the long-playing duo of Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady takes to the Count Basie Theatre this Thursday, the guitar/bass partnership will be returning to town with the electric configuration of Hot Tuna, the blues-rock institution they’ve maintained off-and-on since their days as bandmates in the best-remembered lineup of Jefferson Airplane.
Those original late-60’s Tuna sets (which featured Airplane crewmate, the late Paul Kantner) mixed selections from the Jefferson songbook with vintage blues from the likes of Jelly Roll Morton — and as the “sideline” band coalesced into a recording and headlining act in its own right (teaming childhood friends Jorma and Jack with an ever-shifting roster that would come to include the late and legendary fiddler Papa John Creach, as well as touring guests David Bromberg, Jim Lauderdale and G.E. Smith), the group would perform in both acoustic and electric contexts; something that it continues to do to this day.
Over the decades, finger-style guitarmeister Kaukonen and bass ace Casady would explore various solo and spinoff projects, including respective “new wave” inspired adventures with Vital Parts and SVT. But the revival of the Hot Tuna brand was never far off the horizon at any given time — and despite having released only seven studio albums since their 1970 vinyl debut, the road-tested band that’s graced with an encyclopedic affinity for classic country-blues and roots rock ‘n roll (and unencumbered by any hit records that would only serve to consign them to a particular era) continues to “Keep On Truckin’” for a generations-spanning fan base that ranks the Basie as one of its must-play tour stops.
For Thursday’s 8 p.m. concert, Kaukonen, Casady and company are joined on the bill by Leftover Salmon, the Colorado-based jamgrass (or even “slamgrass”) combo that introduced trad bluegrass forms to a younger rock-reared audience who latched onto its bottled-lightning energy, long before “Americana” existed as an awards-accredited pigeonhole. Founding fathers Vince Herman (vocals, acoustic guitar, washboard) and Drew Emmitt (vocals, acoustic and electric mandolin, electric guitar, fiddle) are teamed with Andy Thorn (vocals, acoustic and electric banjo), Greg Garrison (vocals, acoustic and electric bass) and Alwyn Robinson (drums) in the concert for which tickets ($25 – $59.50) are available right here.