GarciaLive Volume Nine presents Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders’ August 11th, 1974 performance at Keystone in Berkeley, CA. Joining Garcia & Saunders this evening were John Kahn on bass, Martin Fierro on saxophone & flute and the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann on drums. As the site of over 200 performances by Garcia in various configurations, the Keystone Berkeley stage likely felt more like an extension of the Saunders’ family garage where the group would often practice. It was a space without pressure or pretense — one in which they could freely experiment with arrangements, new repertoire and, most of all, just jam.
Saunders’ influence on Garcia’s musical development is plainly heard on GarciaLive Volume Nine. As Garcia once noted in an interview, "[Saunders] filled me in on all those years of things I didn’t do. I’d never played any standards; I’d never played in dance bands. I never had any approach to the world of regular, straight music. He knew all the standards, and he taught me how bebop works. He taught me music.” While the evening’s setlist focuses primarily on standards, the approach is anything but regular or straight. A free-spirited version of The Four Tops’s R&B classic “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)”, one of the evening’s easy highlights, showcases Garcia & Saunders' ability to reimagine standards through inventive arrangements and fiery virtuosity permeated with soul. Other standouts from this performance include a surging “(I’m A) Roadrunner” and an extended take on Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” which clocks in at nearly 20 minutes.