Dayton City Paper: Hot Tuna

With its cult-like fan base, Hot Tuna is a legendary group featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musicians Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen.  As an outgrowth from their days at Jefferson Airplane, Jack and Jorma have pushed the boundaries of genre labels, incorporating bluegrass, jazz, and blues into a jam-band-esque forum.

There have been musicians, over the years, that have devoted time and creativity to the group, but from the beginning the core has always been Jorma and Jack. Having recently celebrated their 40 year anniversary since they first played together in Jefferson Airplane, the pair has built a musical history together, as well as developed some solo projects along the way.  Jorma’s free flowing style and exquisite finger-picking combine fluidly with Jack’s precision use of bass as melody.  Additionally, this year’s exciting tour schedule includes the drive of Erik Diaz’s drumming and the sparkle of Barry Mitterhoff’s mandolin.  With the combination these four talents, Hot Tuna has set the stage for stellar performances of both acoustic and electric sets.

Growing up together in the Washington DC metro area, Jorma and Jack were tremendously influenced by the music scene that surrounded them and the wealth of opportunity that was available.  At the time, the early 1950s brand of blues and rockabilly were prevalent in the clubs of DC that the pair frequented.  Artists such as Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, and Ray Charles were at the forefront of the musical revolution that was about to occur- the musical revolution that Jack and Jorma were about to be part of.

Packing up their southern blues, and jazz roots, the two moved out to San Francisco where a world of opportunity awaited them.  “Knowing my instrument and readiness to go gave me all the preparation I needed,” said Cassidy.  Throughout their years with Jefferson Airplane, Jack and Jorma’s intensive focus on the music brought them to new explorations.  After forming Hot Tuna, the pair has never looked back.  And so, from their days growing up together in DC, and through the musical and social revolution of the sixties, Hot Tuna is alive and well.

In a group such as this one, the song is a living and breathing creature.  When constructing a song, Jack strives to be true to the essence and integrity of each song.  Jorma concurred. “It has always been about treatment of the music.”  In this way, the song becomes a composite of visions. When playing live, there is a certain kind of magic that occurs.  Jack recounts how a live show is as delicate as a conversation.  It takes both sensitivity and awareness to listen as the other person speaks, to talk back, to not interrupt, and respond harmoniously.  “Keeping in the moment is essential,” he said.  “Not only for a good conversation, but for a good performance.


Hot Tuna will perform at Peach’s Grill in Yellow Springs on Wednesday, December 7.  For more information, call (937) 767-4859.  

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