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Fantasy Records reissues, on multi-color double vinyl LP, the first Saunders/Garcia album Live at Keystone. Live at Keystone, originally released as a double LP, was recorded by Grateful Dead associates Betty Cantor and Rex Jackson; all four artists are credited as producers.
Recorded live on July 10 and 11, 1973, at the Keystone club in Berkeley, California, this recording beautifully captures the magical musical friendship of keyboardist Merl Saunders and guitarist Jerry Garcia. The sterling band featured Saunders on keyboards; Garcia, guitar and vocals; John Kahn, bass; and Bill Vitt, drums. Virtuoso David Grisman added mandolin to Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street." The mix of songs ranged from Saunders originals to covers of songs by Jimmy Cliff, Junior Parker, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Rodgers & Hart, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Lightnin' Hopkins, Don Nix and Dan Penn and Dylan.
San Francisco-born keyboardist Saunders had been writing and performing in New York before returning to the West Coast. Producer Nick Gravenites offered him studio work that included playing with guitarist Jerry Garcia, already at the helm of one of the world's most popular rock bands, the Grateful Dead. "Garcia reminded me of (jazz guitarist) Eric Gale," Saunders recollected, "Anything he played was very musical. He knew how to do a rhythm on any kind of tune — gospel, blues, jazz. I was amazed."
Saunders also helped Garcia expand his harmonic knowledge and even showed him some Art Tatum runs. "He taught me music," Garcia said of his friend.
By December 1970, a weekly jam session featuring Saunders, Garcia, Kahn, and Vitt had become a weekly gig at San Francisco's Matrix. Of course Garcia was already a major figure in the musical counterculture as lead guitarist for the Dead, so he kept this new band low-key - so much that it never really had a name (although it was referred to as The Group at times.) As Garcia said, "I couldn't take the pressure of being a double celebrity. It's a drag just being it once." (That didn't stop the itinerant Garcia from having a third band as well, Old and In the Way, with David Grisman, Peter Rowan, and Vassar Clements.)
|2. Positively 4th Street|
|3. The Harder They Come|
|4. It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry|
|6. It's No Use|
|7. That's All Right, Mama|
|8. My Funny Valentine|
|9. Someday Baby|
|10. Like a Road|