Dark Star Orchestra – More Than Just a Cover Band

photo(s) by Phil Emma- for the Grateful Web

It was a happenin' day in Princeton as deadheads filled the quaint town just as they have in the past. Tie dies filled the streets, fathers brought their sons to tailgate in the lot, and fans were getting carried out of bars before the show for a trip down memory lane. The Grateful Dead only played one time in Princeton in 1971, which made Dark Star Orchestra's visit that much sweeter. But instead of playing in a gym, DSO chose the beautiful McCarter Theatre as its venue. The ushers at the theatre deserve recognition because they allowed fans to dance in the aisles and indulge in activities usually frowned upon in this venue.

As many people know, DSO covers actual shows note for note like the Grateful Dead played them originally. Tonight it was a show that occurred almost exactly 27 years before. It was May 10, 1980 in Hartford, CT that was being celebrated tonight. They opened big with "New New Minglewood Blues," which got the crowd on their feet early. A little known fact about this song is that it is constantly mislabeled. Many people as a shortcut call it "Minglewood Blues" or "New Minglewood Blues." The reason why this is incorrect is because those are totally different songs already. Both songs were written by Noah Lewis and performed by different jug bands in the 1920's and 1930's. The lyrics have no similarities between them. Speaking of similarities, the next song was haunting because of the likeness of lead singer John Kadlecik's voice to Jerry's. "Peggy-O" was sung with perfect tone and inflection. Then it was Rob Eaton's turn to belt out a hot "Mexicali Blues > El Paso" run.

Next was the first of the Saturday songs. Robert Hunter's lyrics of "Althea" read, "You may be Saturday's child all grown moving with a pinch of grace," blended perfectly with the older crowd enjoying the nostalgia. Smokin' guitar riffs and loud applause came with "Passenger," the song that was originally written as a joke by Phil Lesh. He said that it's a take on the Fleetwood Mac song "Station Man," just sped up with a few different chord changes. The crowd tonight was on their feet clapping along until the calm Brent Mydland song sung by the great Rob Barraco "Far From Me," where everyone sat down to listen. After, Rob Eaton said, "We can't express how grateful we are to play in such a beautiful environment." He was right, springtime in Princeton is gorgeous, and as it drizzled lightly outside, DSO played "Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance" inside. The crowd got a little sleepy until Kadlecik's guitar solo in the set closer "Deal" breathed life back into the theatre, and the crowd was up and clapping in unison.

dsoThe second set opened with one of my favorite song runs "China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider." The rest of the show was pretty much played one song into another until close to the end. "Feel Like a Stranger" kept the crowd going strong.  "Comes a time when the blind man takes your hand says: don't you see?" The lyrics of "Comes a Time" are some of the most inspiring words ever written. This rendition gave it the justice it deserves. "Estimated Prophet" was performed with the same zeal and energy that the subject of the song would preach it with. Weir and Barlow wrote it about the crazy and high type of fan with an important message they felt had to be delivered to everyone. We've all seen them in the crowd.

"He's Gone" and "Uncle John's Band" gallantly took us into "Drums." Then, the fan friendly "Not Fade Away" had the crowd participating as usual. Finally, the best song of the night "Sugar Magnolia" closed the second set. DSO did a great job in the second set convincing the crowd that they were in 1980. I love to watch people's faces at DSO shows because one can always tell who has never seen them before. They all react with amazement and wonderment at the beauty of how well they play the part of the Grateful Dead.

The encores were "Alabama Getaway" and "One More Saturday Night" from the original show, which were performed very well. But, DSO had one surprise for the grateful crowd. They added the traditional classic "Don't Ease Me In" as a filler.

Overall, this show was a lot of fun, and I hope that DSO comes back to this venue because I think that it lends itself very well to their shows. The theatre as well as the sound was full and vibrant. Check out the band with their heavy tour schedule this summer and fall. It will truly be a fun adventure.

Dark Star Orchestra Winter Tour Dates

Go see DSO this Winter!- for the Grateful Web

Dark Star Orchestra is hitting the road once again.  They will be playing shows in the midwest, Florida, and of course a Colorado tour! 


Fri-Sat, Jan 27-28
Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH

Info:(614) 228-3582

Monday, Jan 30
Headliners Music Hall, Louisville, KY

Info:(502) 584-8088

Tuesday, Jan 31
The Dame, Lexington, KY

Info:(859) 226-9004

Wednesday, Feb 1
Bogart's, Cincinnati, OH

Info:(513) 281-8400

Friday, Feb 3
Carolina Theatre, Greensboro, NC

Info:(336) 333-2605

Saturday, Feb 4
Orange Peel, Asheville, NC

Info:(828) 225-5851

Monday, Feb 6
Starr Hill Music Hall, Charlottesville, VA

Info:(434) 977-0017

Tuesday, Feb 7
Starr Hill Music Hall, Charlottesville, VA

Info:(434) 977-0017

Thursday, Feb 9
Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte, NC

Info:(704) 358-9298

Fri-Sat, Feb 10-11
Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, NC

Info:(919) 821-7766

Sunday, Feb 12
Outer Banks Brewing Station, Kill Devil Hills, NC

Info:(252) 449-2739

Tuesday, Feb 14
Headliners at Banana Joe's, Columbia, SC

Info:(803) 806-8250

Thursday, Feb 16
The Music Farm, Charleston, SC

Info:(843) 853-3276

Fri-Sat, Feb 17-18
Variety Playhouse Theater, Atlanta, GA

Info:(404) 521-1786

Sunday, Feb 19
Freebird Cafe, Jacksonville, FL

Info:(904) 246-2473

Tuesday, Feb 21
Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Info:(352) 392-2787

Thursday, Feb 23
House of Blues, Orlando, FL

Info:(407) 934-2583

Friday, Feb 24
Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, Pompano Beach, FL

Info:(954) 946-2402

Saturday, Feb 25
Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, FL

Info:(727) 896-1244

Sunday, Feb 26
Floyd's Music Store, Tallahassee, FL

Info:(850) 222-3506


Friday, Mar 17
Cervante's Masterpiece Ballroom, Denver, CO

Info:(720) 570-8249

Saturday, Mar 18
Aggie Theatre, Ft. Collins, CO

Info:(970) 407-1322

Mon-Tue, Mar 20-21
Belly Up, Aspen,CO

Info:(970) 274-4686

Thursday, Mar 23
8150 (formerly Garton's Saloon), Vail, CO

Info:(970) 479-0607

Fri-Sat-Sun, Mar 24-26
Fox Theater, Boulder, CO

Info:(303) 443-3399

Tuesday, Mar 28
Sheridan Opera House, Telluride, CO


Thursday, Mar 30
Orpheum Theater, Flagstaff, AZ

Info:(928) 556-1580

Friday, Mar 31
Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ

Info:(480) 829-0607

Saturday, Apr 1
Rialto Theater, Tucson, AZ

Info:(520) 740-0126

Wednesday, Apr 5
Cain's Ballroom, Tulsa, OK

Info:(918) 584-2306

Thursday, Apr 6
Lakewood Theater, Dallas,TX

Info:(214) 821-7469

Fri-Sat, Apr 7-8
La Zona Rosa, Austin, TX

Info:(512) 263-4146

Dark Star Orchestra Live Webcast 10/14/2005 - Archive Available

Live Stream of DSO from McDonald Theater Friday, 10/14- for the Grateful Web

Dark Star Orchestra and The Grateful Web teamed up to provide an streaming video broadcast of DSO's October 14 performance at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene, OR.

You can click on this link to play the stream:

DSO - 10/14/2005 - Live Webcast Archive from Grateful Web

There are a few places during the show that are glitchy on the master file.  Especially during the start of the second set.  The sound board levels were raised up considerably so there is some audio spiking during the first part of Playing.  The rest is due to my computer processing video and audio and then sending it out.  Not to mention that I was exchanging feed back with people via email, this article, and instant messaging.  The lesson learned for next webcast... TWO COMPUTERS!  All things considered, I think the video turned out pretty good and some of the camera work is quite handy.  It is a bit dark at times, but that is directly related to the lighting in the room.  I don't think it would have been a good idea to have big spot lights on top of the video cameras.  :)

Grateful Web's favorite comment quote from the DSO webcast...   "Its Saturday morning in S.E. Asia... and I am dancing in my apartment... thanks again!"

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Dark Star Does Dallas

Dark Star in Boulder  - 9.29.2005- for the Grateful Web
DSO fans having a blast- for the Grateful Web

Dark Star played Boulder last night.  The show was: 11/24/72 (Fri) Dallas Memorial Auditorium - Dallas, TX

Set 1: Don't Ease Me In, Me & My Uncle, Brown Eyed Women, Black Throated Wind, Bertha, El Paso, Deal, Beat It On Down The Line, Tennessee Jed, Jack Straw, Sugaree, Playing In The Band

Set 2: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Box Of Rain, Truckin', Ramble On Rose, Big River, Casey Jones, Sugar Magnolia, Not Fade Away > Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away

Some pictures from the show. 

The Tao of Dark Star

DSO @ Cervantes - Denver, CO- for the Grateful Web



No 1977.

Where else but at a Dark Star Orchestra show does the cryptical reciting and mind-changing on years and dates in the mid seventies occur with such frequency.


Sometime in the summer.


Each month is cause for consideration as some pattern of songs specific to a fall, a summer, a spring of a given year passes through memory.




A location where songs were played in a tricky order more than once.  A vaguely remembered setlist from a 20 year old cassette.

Dark Star is a phenomenally talented live band.  They have been telling us for years that they play each show as an evocation of the original - an exact as possible copy, mistakes and all - and I have no reason to doubt them.  Since I am not personally talented enough to remember the specifics of most of the shows that I have listened to, other than say the second set opening bass bombs of Cornell 77, the earthquake space of Providence 82, or the unearthly pause between the dying notes of the Playing reprise and Dark Star in Hampton 89, I must take DSO for their word in this regard and close my eyes and pretend that it is the Grateful Dead as they were at that moment in time.  It is indeed a fun game to play, but not half as fun as guessing the date and location of the show.  Yes, I am one of those irritating people who can't just listen and dance a hippie jig and enjoy the music.  I must have an ulterior motive for being there, and mine, like many others, is teasing the details of the original performance out of the copy.

The date - Wednesday, July 27, 2005.

The location - Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, Denver, Colorado.

The original - ?.

The first clue - two drum kits.

Two drummers of course means that the show took place either before Mickey Hart - very unlikely as DSO doesn't usually channel the formative years of the band - or after 1975 when Mickey rejoined the fold.  Hence, 1976 (or a rare 75 performance) to 1995.

The second clue - a second mic in the center of the stage.

For Donna ("the Donna").  Sure enough Lisa Mackey was there on stage dancing and harmonizing, dating the show prior to March of 1979.

From there on out the songs tell the story.  A rare Promised Land first set opener.  Loser-Jack Straw-Deal closes the first set.  Bertha>Good Lovin'- Stagger Lee opens the second set.  An encore of Johnny B. Goode.  It can only be, it must be...


I think.

An odd California type of show.

Perhaps one of those in the days right before New Years.

Just for the hell of it I'll say 12-29-1978, Oakland, CA.

Johnny B. Goode is over.  Rob Eaton "The Bobby" steps to the mike, thanks everyone for coming out and announces that the show we heard tonight was originally performed on 11-21-1978 in Rochester, NY.

Oh well, next time.

Click here for more pictures of DSO's 7.27.05 show.


Other articles by Tony Casson:

Phishy, Phishy, Phishy. How do you get your Phix?

Don't Panic

Dark Star Orchestra in Denver

good times @ DSO in Denver, CO- for the Grateful Web
DSO @ Cervantes -- 7.27.05- for the Grateful Web
Bertha>Good Lovin'' had us dancing..- for the Grateful Web

DSO played Denver, CO last night.  The show of choice was Rochester, N.Y. -11/21/1978.  Great version of Truckin' to end set 2. Other highlights include Bertha>Good Lovin, & Estimated>Eyes.  Lots of good folks sweating & dancing  till 2AM..

Band/Artist: Grateful Dead
Date: November 21st, 1978
Venue: Community War Memorial Auditorium
Location: Rochester, NY

Promised Land, They Love Each Other, Cassidy, Dire Wolf, Me & My Uncle-> Big River, Row Jimmy, Minglewood Blues, Loser, Jack Straw, Deal

Bertha-> Good Lovin', Stagger Lee, Estimated Prophet-> Eyes Of The World-> Drums-> Not Fade Away-> Black Peter-> Truckin', E: Johnny B. Goode

Filler:  Scarlet Begonias

Orginial Show can be found @ or click here!

to check out pictures, click here.

Dark Star Orchestra, has vowed the 'Music Never Stop'

Rob Eaton - 12.30.04 - Denver, CO- for the Grateful Web

Following a brief pause in the music following the sudden, tragic loss of band co-founder, keyboardist, and vocalist Scott Larned on April 24, Chicago-based Grateful Dead tribute act, Dark Star Orchestra, has vowed that the 'music never stop' and plan to continue as a nationally-touring entity.


Scott Larned passed on from complications from heart failure during the last week of the band's Spring tour and cancelled six of the remaining shows that tour. Dark Star Orchestra will resume touring with their May 27 Irving Plaza performance with 'special guests' filling the keyboardist/vocalist slot throughout the May and June tour. The band is currently auditioning for keyboardists as a full-time, touring replacement only. Qualified, serious, and interested applicants may email DSO band manager Norman Gopin for more information.


A recent message from DSO band mate Rob Eaton (rhythm guitar, vocals) accurately sums up the band's perspective and feelings:


The remaining band and crew have decided to continue and move forward playing the music of the Grateful Dead. Scott would have wanted it that way. He worked very hard to build the band to the place it is today and it would be an injustice to him and the music to pack it in. One great way to honor his memory is to play on. The music is bigger then any one of us and that's something Scott always professed.  

Will it be the same? It will be different but the music is the same and that's what will get us all through. Our next tour will be a difficult one for us emotionally and we hope our family and friends will be there to help us through. We will start our next tour with "very special guests" filling in on keys until we can find just the right person to join our family full time. Scott's passing has brought us together in a way we never imagined. Scott will always be with us at every show and at every turn.

Peace to everyone-

Rob Eaton


The Larned family has asked that anyone interested in offering donations or contribution s d irect them to be made in Scott's name to the American Heart Association or to Scott's favorite charity, the Rex Foundation. Information about Scott's life and further ways to support him in memory are at


Upcoming Dark Star Orchestra tour dates:


05/27/05 FRI Irving Plaza New York , NY

05/28/05 SAT Irving Plaza New York , NY

05/29/05 SUN Toad's Place New Haven, CT

05/30/05 MON Toad's Place New Haven, CT

06/01/05 WED Lupo's Providence, RI

06/02/05 THU The Chance Theater Poughkeepsie, NY

06/03/05 FRI Count Basie Theatre Red Bank, NJ

06/04/05 SAT Electric Factory Philadelphia, PA

06/06/05 MON Mexicali Blues Cafe Teaneck, NJ

06/07/05 TUE Mexicali Blues Cafe Teaneck, NJ

06/08/05 WED Northern Lights Clifton Park, NY

06/10/05 FRI Somerville Theatre Somerville, MA

06/11/05 SAT Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom Hampton Beach, NH

06/13/05 MON Higher Ground Burlington, VT

06/14/05 TUE Higher Ground Burlington, VT

06/16/05 THU The Tralf Buffalo, NY

06/17/05 FRI Forward Hall Erie, PA

06/18/05 SAT RippleFest Bluffton, OH

07/15/05 FRI Fraze Pavilion Kettering, OH

07/17/05 SUN All Good Festival Masontown, WV

07/21/05 THU 10,000 Lakes Festival Detroit Lakes, MN

08/17/05 WED Veteran's Park Amphitheatre Springfield, OH

Dark Star Orchestra Kicks Off Winter Tour 2005

DSO @ Cervantes - 12/30/04- for the Grateful Web

Now that the calendar has changed to 2005 and DSO has gotten a little bit of rest, the time has come to 'keep on truckin'! Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast: get ready for some DSO.

The band takes the U.S. by storm in January and February offering performances in every one of the time zones. A handful of multiple night stands take place in Austin at La Zona Rosa for two nights, three nights in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall, and another two night stand at Portland's Crystal Ballroom.

The Winter Tour, kicking off in St. Louis (home to DSO drummers Rob and Dino), winds through ten states and brings the band to such hallowed rooms at the Great Amercian Music Hall, where a band called the Grateful Dead offered a quality performance in August of 1975

On Thursday, February 17, a non-DSO show day in the Bay Area, the members of Dark Star Orchestra will be joining David Gans for The Invitational at the  Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley, CA. It is an intimate venue and sure to be an interesting time with other special guests including Henry Kaiser and Eric Thompson. This show begins at 8:30 PM.

DSO has also announced numerous dates for theS pring Tour which begins in Colorado at the end of March then brings them back to the East Coast including an early festival season performance at the Wanee Festival in Florida with the Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule and many other acts.

More Spring Tour dates will be added in the forthcoming weeks. Check out the website for the complete, up to date information.

All Winter Tour shows are on sale now through:

Photo: Robbie Williams

As you may be aware, DSO is drawing national attention with their true-to-life performances. Rolling Stone praises "Dark Star Orchestra's fanatical attention to detail. "USA Today says DSO is "channeling the Dead" and the Washington Post declares them "the hottest Grateful Dead tribute act going Dallas Morning Newsaffirms DSO is "the next best thing to being there", the Denver Post describes Dark Star Orchestra as "a perfection-oriented practitioner of homage" and the Associated Pressnotes that DSO "takes its act to a level of detail that befits a rock band famous for its fanatical following."

Check out Glide Magazine's show review of the December 12 show at the New Higher Ground in Burlington, VT.  Here's a snippet:

"Seeing these guys made me shake my head quite a few times and rub my eyes to be sure that I really wasn't seeing the Dead back in the day. I was immediately pulled in from the first notes and really enjoyed the night thoroughly always feeling at home with what they were playing. To call these guys a cover band would be just plain wrong, they are more like mystical channelers plugged into the source and not letting go!"

Jan 26
The Pageant
St. Louis, MO

Jan 27
The Vogue
Indianapolis, IN

Jan 28
Newport Music Hall
Columbus, OH

Jan 29
Cincinnati, OH

Jan 31
Mercy Lounge
Nashville, TN

Feb 2 
Houston, TX

Feb 3
Lakewood Theater
Dallas, TX

Feb 4, 5
La Zona Rosa
Austin, TX

Feb 7

Feb 8
Santa Fe, NM
w/David Gans &; Daniella

Feb 10
Orpheum Theater
Flagstaff, AZ
w/David Gans opening

Feb 11
Marquee Theater
Tempe, AZ

Feb 12
Belly Up
Solana Beach, CA

Feb 13
El Rey Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Feb 15
The Catalyst
Santa Cruz, CA

Feb 18, 19, 20 
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA

Feb 22
Van Duzer Theatre
Arcata, CA

Feb 24, 25
Crystal Ballroom
Portland, OR

Feb 26
McDonald Theater
Eugene, OR

Feb 27
The Showbox
Seattle, WA
DSO to rest &; resume touring in March

Mar 24
8150 Club
Vail, CO

Mar 25, 26 
Fox Theatre
Boulder, CO

Mar 27
Denver, CO

Mar 31
Minneapolis, MN

Apr 1
Barrymore Theatre
Madison, WI

Apr 2
The Rave
Milwaukee, WI

Apr 8, 9
The Orange Peel
Asheville, NC

Apr 10
Lincoln Theatre
Raleigh, NC

Apr 13
Georgia Theatre
Athens, GA

Apr 15, 16
Wanee Festival
Suwanee Springs, FL

Apr 20
NorVa Theater
Norfolk, VA

Apr 21
Starr Hill Music Hall
Charlottesville, VA

Apr 22, 23
State Theatre
Falls Church, VA

Apr 26
The Crowbar
State College, PA

DSO's 1000th Performance

Available now on 3 CDs

Check out some of the deals on hotels for this upcoming tour.

DSO's Hotelmaster has arranged some great discounts on hotels near the venues the band is playing at.


Live at the Fillmore, videotaped at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco May 8, 2004. The DVD includes appearances by special guest,Donna Jean Godchaux-MacKay, on vocals.

Produced by Bob Matthews, the DVD packaging features artwork by Stanley Mouse.

Live at the Fillmorecontains over two hours of live video footage of two entire sets of DSO recreating the historic May 5, 1977 show from Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New Haven, CT.

This first DVD release from DSO includes two bonus audio CDs of the same show in addition to the DVD disc.

Dark Star Orchestra DVD:
Live at the Fillmore

Available Feb. 4 from

DVD Recorded Live May 8, 2004
of DSO recreating May 5, 1977

In Related News:

The Mix - New CD
"American Spring"

Check out some sound samples online and hear what The Mix is all about.

AMERICAN SPRING, the first CD from THE MIX has just been released available onlineat Rainman Records) and features DSO's John Kadlecik on guitar and Kevin Rosen on bass along with Garcia bandmate Melvin Seals on keyboards and veteran drummer Greg Anton.

The CD features ten tracks including songs penned by all band members as well as two songs co-written by Grateful Dead songsmith Robert Hunter.

Dianne Reeves: Star, StoryTeller and Colorado Native

- for the Grateful Web
Photo Credit(s): Eli Robinson- for the Grateful Web

Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves is a lot of things. She's a Denver, Colorado, native who admits her preference for the Mile High City.  She's a jet-setting star who has traveled the globe. She's a critically acclaimed vocalist, with three Grammy's for her last recordings to prove it. And last, but not least - she's a captivating storyteller on a mission to preserve treasured memories.

Reeves performed in Denver Friday and Saturday with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Boettcher Concert Hall. Scheduling conflicts kept me from purchasing tickets, but I got lucky. As I was driving home from work at about 8 pm Friday night, I caught the last portion of KUVO's live, high definition broadcast of Ms. Reeves' performance.

Let me take a moment here to say I was impressed by the clarity of the station's first HD broadcast.  It sounded like Dianne Reeves was riding shotgun in my Honda, singing directly into my ear.  Although I missed most of the concert, I spent the next half hour on the highway in aural heaven, listening to the lady flex her vocal muscles.  If you know anything about this amazing singer, then you know I was happy to catch even a small portion of her performance.

Reeves wrapped up the evening by improvising a riff that told the story of herself as a child sitting in her grandmother's kitchen, eating shortbread. "I loved the taste but it didn't occur to me," Reeves sang, "to ask her for the recipe, now that sweet taste is just a memory."

Reeves words' conjured warm memories of my own grandparents: my own grandma, who was a magician in the kitchen and whose home always held the scent of freshly baked breads and cakes, and my grandfather, who grew an awesome garden and who used to love reaching out from his easy chair with the hook of his cane to capture me and my siblings. Replaying these memories in my mind, with Dianne Reeves providing a melancholy vocal score, was better than a late night movie with popcorn and a hot date. I mean, it just felt so good.


Reeves ended her nostalgic lament, and the performance, by encouraging people to tell and share their family stories...and to vote.  What better ways for people to preserve their identities and belong to the global community? And what better gifts to pass on to our kids?


I thought about Reeves' words all that night. I couldn't wait to tell forgotten family stories to my son. I fell asleep inspired, with the echo of Reeves' scatting through my mind.

Following the broadcast, KUVO's DJ admonished Denver to show support for native daughter Reeves by turning out in force for her Saturday night concert.  Though I didn't have concert tickets, I made up my mind that I would show my appreciation by attending a meet-and-greet-the-artist event being held at Onofrio Pianos that day.

Upon arriving at Onofrio Pianos, my companion and I learned that the event with Dianne Reeves was a promotional appearance to endorse the Borsendorfer piano. I was willing to sit through a sales pitch just for the honor of spending a few minutes in the presence of Dianne Reeves. I only hoped I would have the chance to congratulate Ms. Reeves in person, thank her for her touching words, and maybe get her to autograph a couple of CDs.  I ended up getting much more than that.


The event was held in a little recital studio, which quickly filled up with Reeves' admirers. The singer walked in to a standing ovation and got things started by doing what else?  Telling a story.

Reeves' relayed the tale of visiting Onofrio Pianos for the first time while accompanying her aunt to purchase a piano for her nephew. Of course, at the time, she laughed, she never imagined that one day she would return to the historic Broadway piano store as a celebrity, helping pitch pianos.

"Now, I'm not trying to do a commercial," Reeves intoned, "but I love this piano.  Not only is it beautiful to look at - (and it was, a gorgeous black grand so shiny it would put any mirror to shame) - "but because it truly has a beautiful sound." Reeves went on to describe the tones produced by the instrument, in terms of warmth and color.


Then, to the surprise and delight of those in attendance, Reeves invited her producer, Arif Martin, to sit down at the keys to demonstrate just what she meant by "warmth and color"  by accompanying her as she sang Thelonius Monk's composition, "Reflections."

It is nearly impossible now to describe what it was like to be sitting four feet away from   this incredible singer, in a closed room with the only the sound of  her voice, the answering tones of the grand piano, and the caught breath of her captive audience as she interpreted Monk's classic tune.

Following the song Reeves picked the thread of conversation back up easily, answering questions about her work as Creative Chair of the L.A. Philharmonic and her upcoming Christmas album.  After graciously rebuffing requests to sing some of the more technically complicated pieces from her repertoire, Reeves' surprised us once again by generously performing another number in the crowded little studio.


Griot* she is, Reeves introduced the piece by telling another story, this time the tale of a music-loving aunt who liked to used the "good" china on ordinary occasions and who taught her impressionable niece the lyrics from down-and-dirty blues tunes. As a little girl, Reeves explained, she was unaware of the double meanings of these traditional songs she was learning, and loving, to sing.

It was only later, as a young woman singing the blues to the enthusiastic catcalls of an appreciative male audience, that the naive young Miss Reeves learned "just what those words really meant." 

With that, Reeves launched into a soul-wrenching interpretation of the "Hard Rock Blues," drawing us once again into the heart of a song with her subtle phrasing and a host of convincing facial expressions.  You really thought this was a heartsick woman down in the delta, alone in her bed and missing her lover.

Following the blues, Reeves expressed her admiration for the late Sarah Vaughan. She talked about Sarah Vaughan understanding her voice the way "a saxophone player understands his instrument." Reeves' appreciation of this quality has led to impeccable command of her instrument; a confident and expressive voice as complex and inviting, and as full of hues and flavor as the Borsendorfer piano she was there to endorse.

While certainly no substitute for seeing Reeves perform with the CSO at Boettcher, her  impromptu concert at Onofrio Piano was a unique and special experience in its own right.  It was an incredible honor to be in the presence of this woman, who has won consecutive Grammy awards for Best Jazz Album for her last three recordings, and hear her sing songs she spontaneously picked for the occasion.

Following her performance, Reeves mingled with the crowd and honored the owners of Onofrio Pianos by autographing the piano in the studio. It truly was a momentous event.  Through the songs and stories she shared, jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves demonstrated her immense talent, her many accomplishments and generosity of spirit for her lucky audience - and gave me a special story of my own to tell.

Photo Credit(s): Eli Robinson

n : a storyteller in West Africa; perpetuates the oral traditions of a family or village [French, alteration of guiriot, perhaps ultimately from Portuguese criado, domestic servant, from Latin cre tus, one brought up or trained, from past participle of cre re, to produce, bring up. See create.]

Dark Star Orchestra

- for the Grateful Web
DSO in Eugene, Oregon- for the Grateful Web
DSO @ Eugene- for the Grateful Web
Dark Star in Boulder, Colorado- for the Grateful Web

There are a lot of cover bands around and a lot of those are Grateful Dead cover bands. You've seen them, they're good. Most include the music of Jerry Garcia, Bobby Weir et al with other cover songs and some originals mixed in. DSO is a different breed of "Dead" band. What Dark Star Orchestra does is recreate the Grateful Dead. Not with hippie wigs and fake beards but through the live music. They play the setlist song for song in the same arrangements used by the Dead members of that period. When you're at a DSO show you may really be in the Providence Civic Center back in May of '81. Or you could even be at the 1973 Denver Coliseum show listening to Weather Report Suite. Who knows?

Actually no one does and that's part of the trip. The date of the show to be recreated is kept secret right up till the performance. Oh, there are clues (the number and placement of microphones, the keyboard setup, a midi guitar) and the secret becomes part of a game. Usually the audience in front starts throwing out guesses toward the end of the first set. The wiser observer waits for the start of the second set to venture a showdate. Sometimes a curious look comes over the faces of the audience as they realize, "Hey! I was at this show!" followed by a smile as they realize...they're at the show again! Remember: This is an exhibition, not a competition. So wagering! The original show date, for those who are DEADBASE-impaired, is announced at the end of the night usually followed by an extended encore of the band's choosing.

Even the press has caught on to what they're trying to do. Rolling Stone did a feature piece on the band in its June 20th, 2002 issue and USA Today says DSO is "channeling the Dead." Relix Magazine also did an in-depth feature article on the band in their Spring 2000 issue (Vol. 27 No. 2) and the Washington Post declared them "the hottest Grateful Dead tribute act going" but what they do is not just a tribute to the Grateful Dead but a testament to the enormous number of unique setlists they performed in their long career. Dark Star Orchestra takes the framework of the original setlists and sees where it can take them.