The Grateful Dead in Concert: Essays on Improvisation (edited by Jim Tuedio and Stan Spector; McFarland, $35.00, 355 pages)
The Grateful Dead in Concert is a non-essential but fun collection of essays about the Dead’s live improvisation, and other things related to the band in its heyday. This reviewer sees it as non-essential because the notion of writing academic essays on the Dead’s intentionally sloppy musicianship is a little silly. A comparable book would discuss the classical elements and phrases in the music of Bruce Springsteen. And does anyone really need a list of the seven Requirements for Strategic Improvisation?
But there’s some great writing in here, such as the article by Cristian Amigo that calls to mind Junot Diaz; Rebecca Adams’ essay on seeing the Dead play live for the first time; and Joan Millay’s wild and wooly tale of sharing drugs with the band members. The latter will take Boomers back to the time when they read magazines like Cream, Ramparts, and the then-rebellious Rolling Stone.
This might make a nice gift for an egghead that’s been a closet Dead Head. Just warn the recipient not to take it too seriously. As musician Wynton Marsalis said about jazz, “Anyone can improvise, but any improvisation is not jazz.” Writing about music is not music.
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.