On Monday Evening, two days ago, Georgia and I went to the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis to see Hot Tuna in concert. For those who don't know, Hot Tuna is the group founded by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy as a side project for their main gig as lead guitarist and bassist for Jefferson Airplane, the 60's era psychedelic San Francisco rock band. Even then, it was clear the Jorma's talents as a guitar player far exceeded the needs of the group, and the second group gave him and Jack Cassidy a venue for their love of the older stuff, especially blues and rag-time era music. Hot Tuna has outlasted both the Airplane and it's successor, Jefferson Starship.
Hot Tuna exists in two form, the acoustic version that we saw on Monday, and an electric version that has toured in the summer festival season, often with the remnants of the old Grateful Dead. I saw them about 10 years ago in the electric version with the Dead at Nissan Pavilion, and got backstage to talk briefly with Jack and Jorma, as we were with one of Jack's relatives who lives in the neighborhood.
The personnel seems to vary with the needs and interests of the group, often with keyboard players and drummers, but sometimes as little as Jack and Jorma alone. On Monday, they were a trio, with Barry Mitterhoff playing a variety of fretted instruments, mostly a mandolin, but also a banjo, a tenor guitar, and a ukelele.
At the Rams Head, we were no more than 20 ft from the stage, in the first row, but off to the side. We both had pretty good views, but Georgia had a post to peer around.
They played a solid set, most of the songs being Hot Tuna classics, "The Hesitation Blues", "99 Year Blues" "Oh Lord, Search My Heart", "Embryonic Journey" "Mann's Fate", but also 3 or 4 songs off their new CD (their first studio CD in 20 years) - "Steady As She Goes".
I consider Jorma to be one of the great guitarists. He doesn't have quite as many extra fingers as Leo Kotkke, and he plays a slightly different style of music, more standard tuning (with a little phase in Dropped-D), no 12 string (the instrument from hell). I hadn't realized until Monday what a really great bass player Jack Cassidy is, with long bass solos. Barry Mitterhoff was also a real asset, with great contributions from all of his different instruments.
A video of this line up of Hot Tuna, from 2011 playing "Good Shepherd", one of my favorites, at Fur Peace Ranch, the guitar camp run by Jorma in Ohio. I am accepting donations to send me there for my retirement...
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