Freestyle: Hot Tuna keeps the music coming
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s your lucky year, Hawaii! The time is right for getting to hear some of rock music’s most important lynchpins.
I’m talking about Dave Mason, who lifted off with Britain’s 1960s rock scene and Traffic, played with Jimi Hendrix on “All Along the Watchtower,” wrote the Joe Cocker standard “Feelin Alright” and sort of summed up the turbulent 1970s with “Only You Know and I Know,” which was also covered by Eric Clapton. He’ll perform at Mamiya Theatre on Sunday.
And then there’s Roger McGuinn, known for the beautiful, chiming sound of his Rickenbacker guitar, who played with The Byrds and penned “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Eight Miles High.” He’ll play the Hawaii Theatre on Aug. 19.
» Where: Mamiya Theatre and Crossroads at Hawaiian Brian’s
In between, on June 19 comes Hot Tuna, the duo of Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, who played with Jefferson Airplane as that band flew to its highest heights of creativity and spanned an era in rock music that stretched from the folk and blues revival through psychedelia and beyond.
Guitarist Kaukonen and bassist Casady have had a nearly life-long relationship, having played together since they were teenagers living near Washington, D.C. They are both highly respected for their instrumental prowess and the moving, deeply rooted American rock music they helped pioneer.
After relocating to San Francisco as it neared the height of the psychedelic scene, Kaukonen was a founding member of Jefferson Airplane in the ’60s and was with the band as it released drug-fueled hits “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.” He wrote songs with that band through the late ’60s, becoming known for his long, intricate guitar jams at a time when audiences were game to go along for the ride.
Kaukonen and Casady formed Hot Tuna in 1969 and have played together on and off ever since. And with the rise of the Americana movement in contemporary music, the duo has enjoyed another revival of interest in their music.
“My take on music has always had to do with what we now call Americana,” Kaukonen said in a call from his Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio last month. “We just called it ‘old music’ then. … We fell into the rock scene. I was in the right place at the right time.”
He’s being modest; Kaukonen felt the call and got himself to San Francisco and into the company of Grace Slick, Papa John Creach and company at a very opportune time. With Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna and as a solo artist, his music, appreciation for tradition and guitar technique have connected and impressed audiences through the generations.
Similar praise could go toward Casady, whose namesake Epiphone bass guitar is now an industry standard.
The two released their latest album, the electrified “Steady As She Goes,” in 2011.
I’ll tell you more about Hot Tuna in TGIF next week. For now, let me just advise that you get yourself to one of these gigs if you like fingerpicking guitar or old music. At Mamiya Theatre, the duo will do some storytelling along with playing music. At Crossroads, the show will be in concert format.
Get a taste of what I’m talking about with the duo’s acoustic version of “Trial by Fire,” a 1972 song penned by Kaukonen for Jefferson Airplane, below.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.