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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.

Via e-mail
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.

Mike Babyak
Durham, North Carolina

Well, you disappoint me! You left out the most obvious choice for the position of heir apparent to the Grateful Dead, and a band that has close ties to the Dead family at that. Yes, I am talking about the David Nelson Band.

David Nelson is once again riding high on the music scene. He has assembled a superb musical unit and turned them loose on some exciting and provocative new tunes, many with lyrics by Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.

Keeper of the Key is 70 minutes of music recorded live at Baltimore's 8x10 Club in 1995. "John Hardy's Wedding" and Bob Dylan's "Wicked Messenger" reflect the band's traditional music influences; "Impressionist Two-Step" is a re-tooling of an obscure gem by Pop Wagner; "The Wizard's Son" and "See So Far" propel the band into space for some improvisational excursions; while "Kick in the Head" and "Four: Fifty-One" are solid rockers. The new CD also features a dynamite version of one of their most heavily requested numbers, the Grateful Dead standard "The Wheel."

Michelle McFee
Via e-mail

In response to your "Jerry's Kids: Jam Bands burst into bloom" article: Dave Matthews Band a "lesser light"? Not as "essential" or "influential"?

DMB sold 150,000 copies of their self-produced, self-distributed first album. That's more than REM's first album sold. They did this, in part, because tapers like myself helped spread the gospel of DMB, if you will. We would go to DMB shows twice a week, and know that we wouldn't hear the same song twice, even if the set list was exactly the same, which it never was, of course. They now sell out every arena they play. Carter Beauford, their magnificent drummer, fared well against the best drummers in history in a Modern Drummer magazine readers' poll last summer.

Their tours are always marked by numerous special guests, from Bela Fleck and John Popper, to Tim Reynolds and Trey Anastasio. The highest compliment one musician can give to another is taking the stage with them. Plus, Steve Lillywhite has produced their last album and is in the studio with them again as we speak.

These guys put on one hell of a good show. Get your hands on some tapes, and play them around the office for a couple days. I guarantee you will be on the phone to TicketBastard when DMB goes on tour again this spring.

Nicholas Tolson
Via e-mail

Matt Weitz's "Jerry's Kids" article was illuminating. As a Phish fan, I'm pleased to see an article that downplays the importance of the Grateful Dead to American jam bands.

However, Weitz's analysis fails to mention one of the most important improvisational heroes of our time: George Clinton. His most popular bands--Parliament and Funkadelic--took the "primitive" rhythms that influence so many jam bands, but applied them to a funk format. His jamming and musical conceptualizing helped to create brand-new genres, the most important of which is rap.

P-Funk changed the way Americans looked at improv, with tight arrangements and chant-like lyrical structures. They've influenced rock--check out Phish's new album "Slip Stitch and Pass" to hear the grooves--and ushered in rap. As a contemporary of the Dead, Allman Brothers Band, and Pink Floyd, George Clinton's significance cannot be understated. His music, either heard directly or through countless samples, still gives us shivers.

Walter Biggins
Via e-mail

Congrats for such a great start of an online presence! I certainly prefer going online to having to scramble every weekend to find a copy of the Observer.

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