So I’m a big fan of the Grateful Dead and Phish, bands whose shows are/were hugely improvisational: no set list, so the songs they play vary greatly every night; long, extended jams, thirty minute guitar solos, etc. I am a jam band fan.
(I was greatly disappointed when I got the CDR’s of Led Zeppelin’s shows from the LA Forum in 1974 [I think], only to discover that they played the exact same concert every night. Even the guitar solos were carbon copies of what Page had played the night before. A jam band would NEVER do such a thing.
The only difference between night one and night three of the Zeppelin stand at the Forum was how out of tune Page’s guitar was from night to night.)
Anyway, I recently discovered a “new” jam band, JRAD, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Basically, Russo has recruited a band of great rock-country-jazz players, and their songbase is mostly (not exclusively) Grateful Dead songs. (And I LOVE Grateful Dead songs; Robert Hunter and J.P. Barlow were amazing lyricists, and the music is sublime.)
But JRAD plays the songs improvisationally, the way a jazz combo might play a Miles or Monk or Duke song, but they’d never play the same thing that Miles or Monk or Duke played on the record, and they’d never play the same solos night after night. JRAD is not a tribute band, they’re not trying to recreate the experience of hearing Jerry and the boys. They’re taking the Dead’s songs (mostly) and improvising on them in the spirit of the Grateful Dead. And they have the chops to make some incredible music.
Give ’em a listen.