Saturday, June 4, 2016

Jorma Kaukonen at City Winery

Jorma Kaukonen learned to play guitar as a teenager in Washington, D.C., and formed a band named the Triumphs with his guitarist friend Jack Casady. While Kaukonen was in college, a friend introduced him to the elaborate finger style guitar work of the Rev. Gary Davis. Kaukonen moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1962 and taught guitar lessons, played as a solo blues and bluegrass artist in coffee houses, and accompanied a young Janis Joplin on acoustic guitar. He and Casady were founding members of the psychedelic Jefferson Airplane in 1965, and in 1969 the duo launched a side project, Hot Tuna, as a vehicle for Kaukonen to play his Piedmont fingerpicking style acoustic blues. Since 1974, Kaukonen has recorded 12 solo albums, the most recent being Ain't In No Hurry, released on February 17, 2015. He and his wife Vanessa currently operate Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp in Pomeroy, Ohio.

Headlining two nights at City Winery, Jorma Kaukonen performed solo, switching between two acoustic guitars. He started the set with two songs from his solo albums, "Too Many Years" from 1998's Too Hot to Handle and the title track from 2015's Ain't in No Hurry. Beyond that, the set consisted of 22 covers, of which more than half were from his days in Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. The significance of the concert was not in the song selection, however, but in the tasteful guitar playing. For over two hours, the delicacy and precision of Kaukonen's finger picking was unmatchable by anyone but the late Rev. Gary Davis. Kaukonen did not seem to be seeking the wow factor in his playing, however, but rather recreating and enriching one of Americana's musical legacies. Nevertheless, he not only impressed but mastered at six-string acoustic music. At age 75, Kaukonen may be the world's finest living acoustic blues guitarist.

Visit Jorma Kaukonen at www.jormakaukonen.com.