Master of the Universe
By Joy Michiel
He bursts onto the stage with effervescence — a bear of a man with a larger than life presence. He is Melvin Seals and he is the unofficial guardian of the Jerry Garcia Band, dedicated to keeping the music of Jerry Garcia alive. Seals, who played with Garcia for 18 years, is keeping his legacy intact while adding a new dimension and freshness.
Garcia always wanted to believe that the music was bigger than him and would live on. He imprinted his signature sound on the songs and his death in 1995 left a void among his legion of fans. Seals recalls that at first it didn’t matter because the Grateful Dead people didn’t think JGB would survive without Garcia. Yet, Seals had a calling to keep Garcia’s music in the forefront and thankful fans have embraced the new incarnation.
Seals’ original background was in gospel. But when he met up with Garcia, he had to seriously tweak his style. Seals recalls that there was a certain looseness with the music, adding that Garcia didn’t want it too tight, too orchestrated or too arranged. He wanted it to just flow. Through Garcia tutelage Seals learned to abandon the precise and technical and simply play from the heart.
Seals is honoring a tradition and form that Garcia took tremendous pride in mastering and sharing at the same time successfully continuing to take risks musically. The JGB sets unfold naturally with an ease and acuity that includes the audience as an active, organic participant.
Seals has been a powerful presence in the music industry for more than 30 years, but he is most revered for his powerful, high-spirited, Hammond B-3 organ and keyboards in JGB, helping to pioneer and define what has now become jam band music. From blues to funk to rock to jazz, Seals and JGB serve up a tasty mix with a little R&B and gospel thrown in to spice things up.
Melvin and JGB bring an intuitive, expressive style, soul, spontaneity and remarkable chops to the table. The unique combinations of Dave Hebert’s guitar and vocals, Pete Lavezzoli’s hearty drums, the bounding bass of Jimmy Tebeau and vocals by Shirley Starks and Cheryl Rucker, and the wizard’s magic on Hammond B-3 and keyboards, allow JGB to kick some serious musical butt. The result is a satisfying blend of natural organic grooves that challenges genre boundaries. They offer an exciting, often psychedelic musical journey that changes nightly and keeps the audience dancing.
Seals and Garcia were close friends and it is obvious Seals is doing it out of love for the man, love for the man’s music and appreciation for the fans who want to hear Garcia’s songs live and breathe. It is no wonder Garcia nicknamed him “Master of the Universe.”
Melvin Seals & JGB play the Crystal Bay Club on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 9 p.m. For more information, call (775) 833-6333. For more information on Melvin Seals & JGB, visit melvinsealsandjgb.com.
Saturday, Nov. 16 | 9 p.m. | $22 advance/$25 day of show | 21 & older | Crystal Bay Club | Crystal Bay, Nev.