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Head Tuna Makes Waves at Lake
by Haven James

Event: Hot Tuna
Where: Joyous Lake, Woodstock (679-0367)
When: Sunday, April 11 [1999]

This Sunday, April 11 [1999], Jorma Kaukonen returns to town with fellow Hot Tunas, guitarist Michael Falzarano and keyboard maestro Pete Sears, for what's sure to be a sold-out performance at The Joyous Lake. A former Woodstocker himself, Kaukonen is sure to draw a bevy of friends and family and one can only hope the stage is big enough to hold them all. Call the Lake at 679-0367 for reservations now or plan to skulk the deck for passage on the eve of the show.

Too Many Years is the title of Jorma's newest release on American Heritage/Relix Records. It sports a number of originals as well as a variety of traditional and classic songs, all Kaukonized for the listening pleasure of lifelong fans of the Hot Tuna casserole way. The title, of course, poses as much of a question as it makes a statement, when you consider it's coming from an artist who has played virtually non-stop since his youth straight through to the present day.

Having emerged to fame in the '60s, Kaukonen's career has not followed anything remotely like what might be considered the "normal" regimen of a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Robert Hunter's famous lyric, "What a long, strange trip it's been," carries relevance for many players who came on the scene during the birth of psychedelia, but particularly for Kaukonen, who penned "Embryonic Journey" for the Surrealistic Pillow album and shared the helm of the Jefferson Airplane at the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair. Parting for a while from that vessel with his cohort, bassist Jack Casady, to form Hot Tuna, Kaukonen and friends stunned the burgeoning new electric order with "Mann's Fate," "New Song For The Morning," and his Rev. Gary Davis-like finger-style interpretations of "Hesitation Blues" and "Know Your Rider," reintroducing acoustic music to the evolving culture. Continuing to mix the mediums of the rich electronic tones with the resonant acoustic, Kaukonen has steered Hot Tuna and a myriad of variations through the decades to the brink of the millennium with perhaps the only absolute constant being his unmistakable musical signature.

Local regular Michael Falzarano has been accompanying Jorma in his musical ventures for some time now. Falzarano wrote or co-authored several tunes on Too Many Years and sings a number of songs on the record as well. Pete Sears is another veteran of the rock 'n' roll highway and is a great addition to any variation of the Kaukonen show. His musicianship is consummate, and his general sense of space, as expressed through his keyboards, adds a serious level of dimension to the music. The trio of K, F and S know each other and their collective material well and should be ready to kick out the jams at the Lake for sure.

When Kaukonen left Woodstock in the '80s, he and wife Vanessa bought property in the foothills of the Appalachians in Ohio and have built up their Fur Peace Ranch to serve as a guitar camp. In addition to Tuna types Jorma, Casady and Falzarano, instructors have included artists such as Rory Block, Roy Bookbinder, Chris Smither, G.E. Smith and Dan Erlewine. Sessions are staggered throughout the year and geared for all sorts of groups including kids. Woodstock's Homespun Tapes have carried instructional videos by Kaukonen for some time, but they now include new materials shot at the Ranch, so those interested in that venture can get an advance look at the spread via tape.

You can get a full schedule of at Joyous Lake, or on the phone (679-0367) to FLS Management. The show is sponsored by WPDH, so give a listen for ticket specials there, too. Brian Gallaway will open Sunday's show, and again, advance reservations are definitely in order if you want to assure a spot lakeside, as this ought to be one of those very special Woodstock nights.

Haven James has been a consistent contributor to the Music & Arts scene around the Hudson Valley and beyond for almost a decade through his column, Werewolves of Woodstock, published weekly in the Woodstock Times

A writer, musician, philanthropist, and Mac addict; he lives reclusively, high atop Overlook Mountain with his son and a menagerie of animals, both wild and domesticated. Though currently unmarried, rumors abound as to his intimate relationships with Madonna, Sandra Bernhardt, and Eli Bach; though he insists these notions to be pure hearsay. His identity has remained a mystery to all but the closest of friends as he often travels in disguise and appears unannounced and undercover at concerts and venues in a dedicated effort to get the real story.

Go to the Werewolves of Woodstock page for more articles by Haven James.
Haven James can be contacted at

Posted on April 08, 1999

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