Scott Amendola reminded me that December 4 was the twenty third anniversary of the sudden and tragic passing of his friend and bandmate Calder Spanier.
I only met Calder once or twice. He played in the Charlie Hunter Quintet I think with Scott, Chuck McKinnon, Kenny Brooks at Cubberley, maybe the same night that the young Lions of Palo Alto like Josh Thurston played there. I might be sloppily conflating too many story lines, too many notes. I’m blowing it.
Veronica deJesus did this tribute to Calder.
He shares a few additional signature traits with the Deadhead community beyond this: As a teenager growing up in Connecticut, he made the pilgrimage to New York’s Wetlands Preserve and other clubs in the mid-‘90s to record Charlie Hunter and Medeski Martin & Wood.
“They called it acid jazz, and I didn’t quite know what the acid part meant because I wasn’t quite indoctrinated into the other stuff,” Mayer says of his taper days. “I remember seeing Charlie Hunter at Wetlands—it must have been Charlie Hunter Quartet when Calder Spanier was still around, and he was the saxophone player. [Spanier died in a 1997 auto accident.] I saw Charlie Hunter at the Middle East in Cambridge and brought this guitar pedal that he uses and had him sign it.
“I also had a DAT recorder with the external battery pack and this little lunch cooler that I used as my taper rig. I saw Charlie Hunter at South Street Seaport and I had the DAT for years. I learned all this playing of this one concert, and I learned to play like him as much as I could from all these DAT tapes that I made. After I went to the Berklee College of Music, though, I didn’t keep it going.”
Nonetheless, Mayer’s formative musical experiences in the improvisational realm were much broader than many Deadheads associated with him before seeing him in action. Indeed, before his first show with Dead & Company, many assumed that the group would gravitate back to the blues palette of the band’s early days when Pigpen exerted his influence. However, while Mayer is adept at such tones and techniques, he wanted to go the whole nine yards—or, rather, the full 12 miles.
“When I started, I looked at it from a completely technical standpoint. ‘Could I make this music happen?’” Mayer reflects. “There’s no reason to assume that anybody would know that I could, and I never held it against them. I feel that the steadfastness with which they protect the gate is the same loyalty once you’re in. It’s like the movie where there’s a bunch of seemingly scary biker guys, and a scrawny business guy endears himself to them in some way and they give him a jacket. If you do the work, if you can fix the guy’s motorcycle, you can get his jacket. If you compare my music to the Grateful Dead and that’s personified, then I’m the scrawny business guy in there. But I’m relishing the opportunity to do the work.”
from John Mayer, if again to many tenderfoots for quodlibets