Jazz Is Dead, a group that has been performing jazz versions of Grateful Dead songs since 1998, is touring for the first time with a Grateful Dead member: keyboardist Tom Constanten, who was in the band from 1968 to 1970.
Constanten talked about the tour, which comes to the South Orange Performing Arts Center on Thursday, with Bob O’Donnell of homegrownradionj.org and and Don Grossinger of WBAI-FM. (The complete interview can be streamed below.)
“This is Grateful Dead material, but it’s done a very, very different way,” Constanten said. “This is material I’ve done over the last 40-plus years, except I’m finding that my bag of tricks doesn’t work in this context, so I’m having to reinvent myself, and I find that so challenging and refreshing. It really puts a smile on my face.”
The shows are different every night, he said, “and even the same song will not be the same every night. … and you know that the venue and the people who show up bring their vibes, and they definitely contribute to the show. We are very sensitive to them, and respond to them, and we love playing with them. I feel like I’m playing the audience as much as I’m playing notes.”
He said the band plays songs from all periods of the Dead’s career. “We play songs from way after my time, that I don’t know, and I’m learning. And we play songs from my time that I should know …. and I’m learning.”