Thursday, August 22, 2013

Long Sentence

If the guitar scholar had taken my bait at the bowling alley, had engaged me in a robust debate about rock guitarists, I would’ve said that Jerry Garcia is the greatest guitarist of all time because he was the lead guitarist for the house band at the parties where the mainstream split open and revealed a new option, the psychedelic path, there for all who wish to venture down it, for then and for all time, and that alone is enough, I think, to make him the greatest, but also because a nomadic subculture has grown around him and expanded to coalesce around other bands that have followed in his path, and these tribes still roam today, all these years after his death, and will continue to roam long beyond the lives of his great great great grandchildren, and, no matter what you might think of these psychedelic nomads, or the music that draws them, you have to admit that the same cannot be said of any other guitarist, plus he’s left behind an archive of sounds vastly more vast than that of any musician who has ever lived, thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of concerts, rehearsals, and studio outtakes, more than 30 years worth, and, by his own account, a good 80 percent of it was improvised, so we have in his legacy unparalleled access to the ever evolving creative mind and technical dexterity of a top-level artist, and as a scholar I know you have to at least appreciate that, and I say top-level artist because to say best is absurd, it’s too subjective, but still my money’s on Garcia, not so much because of the way he played, but because of the people he played with, and how they made him play, because it all goes back to the Dead starting out as the house band at the fabled Acid Tests, to being juiced up on pharmaceutical grade LSD, having the freedom to play or not play as the spirit moved them, the band developed a psychic bond that allowed them to all solo simultaneously and still somehow manage to keep in tact the basic structure of whatever tune they were playing, and so Garcia, as the leader, developed a skill for weaving the chaos together with his many strands of off-center scales while at the same time launching off on his own, from chaos into deep deep sonic space. 

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