By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
I have nothing more to add, except that I enjoy checking out the Observer online.
Rhea Anne Cook
Jamming the mailbox
I just wanted to tell you that I thought the piece on the jam bands was very well done ["Jerry's kids," November 13]. Easily one of the best articles I've read on the subject--especially the part about Panic. Kudos!
This is for the person who calls himself a writer who wrote the article about Blues Traveler. Blues Traveler is an awesome band. How dare you say those things about them!
I would like to voice my displeasure with Matt Weitz's article about improvisational music. I am a fan of Blues Traveler, but I am not going to complain about someone else's musical tastes. I can understand that some people do not like BT or other improvisational bands, like those mentioned elsewhere in the article.
As a former musician myself (saxophone), I can say with certainty that improvisational music is the hardest to perform. Sure, one can go up and blow random notes out of an instrument, but it is obvious even to those who don't study music when a wrong note or chord progression is played. To translate music from inside your head to play it on the instrument spontaneously is a tremendously difficult task. I would have a hard time believing that Mr. Weitz could say the same thing (aimless bullsh-t) about the improvisational music of legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, etc.
Though jazz and rock are totally different musical genres, the underlying concept of improvisation remains. Popper went through years of schooling to pick up his harmonica skills. I have a great appreciation for his talent, because I, in fact, own a harmonica and cannot play a single song. The techniques that are used to play as quickly, clearly, and freely as Popper are very difficult to master. To call him inept is like claiming that Ken Griffey Jr. is a bad baseball player. Again, I can understand that some people are not fans of this music, but to make uneducated claims like this is ridiculous.
As for Kinchla, it has been over a year since he's had any hair to whip around. So he's an average guitar player; I will not dispute that. But he has vastly improved. He plays the parts in the songs effectively, and his unique sound adds another dimension to the band. He dances, moves around, and makes faces on stage for two reasons: The female fans like it, and he is genuinely enjoying himself. I notice that the drummer and bass player were not insulted. Could it be that they are actually good at their instruments? Bob Sheehan is easily one of the five most talented bassists I have heard. Brendan Hill is a competent drummer as well.
OK, you don't like the album. Why discourage others from listening to it? Many people who find the live music annoying still enjoy the album, especially this one. The style of play is different, and much more of a poppy, Top-40ish style of music. I question what type of music Mr. Weitz is a fan of, for I am sure that similarities can be drawn between one of his favorite bands and Blues Traveler.
All in all, I don't see any reason for this article to have been printed. To write an uninformed, inaccurate piece that slams a band in front of a large audience is wrong. It would be much like me printing an article that makes unfounded negative claims about your publication, when the only exposure I have had to it was this one article.
David S. Bernreuther
Although I disagree with some of your views (I think Blues Traveler is definitely better than you give them credit for), you definitely hit most of the bands that I would place into this "jam band" category.
I have to say something about your Blind Melon "clueless" remark. Have you ever listened to their albums? Paid attention to any of Shannon Hoon's lyrics? I have to say that Blind Melon was one of the most refreshingly different bands to come around in a while, and it was truly a shame to lose them.
I was really into the direction they were taking their music. I've never really heard anything quite like it, and when they were on, the live show was pretty intense too. You either didn't give it a chance, or you just didn't get it.
I appreciated your article on the wonderful growth of post-"Dead" improvisational bands. I'd like to point out, however, that you failed to mention one of the most remarkable bands in the mix--that is, Zero, from the Bay Area. Until recently, Zero has remained content to stay close to home and to release only the occasional recording. But there exists an astounding number of taped Zero shows in circulation. Many feel that they are among the few bands whose live act comes very close to that "magic" that the Dead had. The relative merit of such a statement notwithstanding, Zero's guitarist, Steve Kimock, is clearly among the most compelling guitarists of the present generation. He is nothing short of astounding. Again, thank you for the interesting article, and here's hoping you have a chance to check Zero out a bit.