Papa John Creach - violin, vocals; Joey Brasler - guitar, vocals; Steve Haberman - keyboards, vocals; Bryan Tilford - bass, background vocals; Mark Leon - drums, percussion, background vocals
On a 1967 visit to the Parisian Room, drummer Joey Covington happened upon an extraordinary 50-year-old violinist named John Henry Creach, AKA Papa John. Covington struck up a friendship with the veteran musician, and when he joined the Jefferson Airplane in 1970, Covington introduced Creach to the band members. Creach was immediately recruited by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady to augment the Hot Tuna sets they were incorporating into the Airplane's performances at the time. Due to the immediate and incredibly enthusiastic response from audiences, Creach was soon recruited into the Airplane as well. Creach's appearance (a somewhat frail looking black man in his 50s) and bubbly appreciative personality certainly provided a novelty element, but more importantly, Creach's ability to improvise and his distinctive technique and tone helped fuel many inspired performances by both group's. Creach's work within the Airplane soon led to the release of his own album on the Airplane's Grunt label, where he was joined by the cream of the San Francisco music elite, who were all eager to play with him. Creach would continue releasing periodic solo albums and would survive the transition of the Jefferson Airplane into the Jefferson Starship, where he would soon receive his most high profile exposure to date, playing on the group's most popular albums and dazzling audiences with his boundless energy. After amassing a wealth of material on his own projects, midway through the 1970s Creach formed a band of his own and began touring the college and club circuit as he was entering his 60s! Performing a wide range of material primarily sourced from his solo albums, Creach and his band of much younger musicians were adept at everything from blues, jazz, funk, rock, to standards, all fueled with Papa John Creach's highly distinctive violin technique and relentless enthusiasm for the power of music.
This set, recorded at the fourth and final show of a two-night run at New York City's Bottom Line, captures Creach and his band headlining over the up-and-coming reggae band, Inner Circle. Creach's sixth solo album and his first with DJM Records, The Cat And The Fiddle, had just been recorded with members of the band Midnight Sun, who also played on his previous album, Rock Father. Kevin Moore, later known as Keb' Mo' ) had recently moved on and was replaced with another young talented guitarist, Joey Brasler. This lineup was perhaps the most cohesive lineup of all Creach's post-Starship groups and they provide impeccable backing as well as some of the material for this memorable tour.
Following a brief opening instrumental to warm up the band's chops and introduce Papa John to the enthusiastic New York City audience, they begin with "Let's Get Dancing." Written by bassist Brian Tilford and featured on the new album, this funky disco driven dance number sets a joyous tone right off the bat. Venturing back to his 1974 album, Playing My Fiddle For You, Creach next serves up "Friendly Possibilities," displaying his deep-rooted bluesier side. Things really start heating up on a delightful cover of Grover Washington's "Mister Magic," which heads in a jazzier direction. This allows the group to stretch out a bit. Papa John takes the first solo, improvising the classic sax leads on violin with great flare, followed by a smoldering guitar solo from Brasler. Shortly into Brasler's solo, he kicks in some distortion and the jam really starts taking off. This leads into an impressive electric piano solo from Steve Haberman, whose fluid keyboard work is all over this performance, before they reprise the song and bring it to a close nearly ten minutes later. Following an introduction of the musicians, they perform another song from the new album, "Give Me Another Chance," penned by guitarist Brasler and Roy Sciacca. This is a straightforward pop exercise featuring Brasler on vocals which sounds remarkably similar to the Orleans hit, "Still The One."
Written by the arranger for his 1972 album, Miles Grayson, the next song, "Filthy Funky," returns Papa John to form, harkening back to Papa John's Hot Tuna-esque style, featuring plenty of his trademark glissandos and trills but with a funkier edge. This also features impressive solos from Tilford and Brasler before launching into a repeating a cappella chorus of "Papa Johnny - You're our Man!" leading into a second flight from Creach before bringing it to a close. "Foxy Lady" (not to be confused with the Hendrix song) returns to new album material with a taste of smooth jazz with a soulful flare before they launch into "The Rocker." Like the name implies, this original from Creach's 1975 album, I'm The Fiddle Man is another vehicle for rocking out and Creach, Brasler, and Haberman all get opportunities to shine here. Following such a high energy number, Creach banters humorously with the audience and his band members before delivering a remarkably beautiful performance of the traditional anthem of Northern Ireland, "Londonderry Air." (Listener's may recognize this lovely instrumental, as when lyrics were added, this became the standard "Danny Boy.")
Appropriately enough, the Creach Band close the set with "Travelin' On." A collaboration between the members of Midnight Sun and Creach, this up-tempo boogie number again lets the group flex their muscles and jam. Brasler takes the first solo, a nice extended one before Papa John slides in with a trademark glissando descending into a smoking hot solo of his own. Following a nearly 12-minute jam that has the audience singing right along, they bring it to crashing close. The audience howls for more, encouraging Papa John to return to the stage for an encore. Much to their delight, the group launches into one of Papa John's classics from his Jefferson Airplane days, "Milk Train." Written by Creach, Roger Spotts, and Grace Slick, here the song is performed instrumentally and its another propulsive exercise that continues to build momentum over the course of its 11-minute workout. Less explosive than the Airplane's treatment, Creach first solos to a gentler backing. When Brasler takes over for his solo the energy level cranks up a notch and continues building through a keyboard solo by Haberman. Creach really takes off during his second solo which features plenty of the raw tone he was known for, achieved by playing close to the bridge with plenty of rosin on his bow. The band then drops out giving the rhythm section their own extended solos before all join forces again for a smoking blowout to the final performance of this run.