Pre-fame recordings from boldface names are oftentimes nothing more than curiosities – something to listen to a time or two before they become conversation pieces of the memory.
And very occasionally – such as on Jorma Kaukonen’s 2018 digital album 1964 Cabale Creamery, Berkeley, CA (Live) – those recordings are nothing short of essential additions to the discography.
This pristine, 54-year-old recording shows the young, pre-Jefferson Airplane, pre-Hot Tuna Kaukonen doing then what the old, post-Airplane Kaukonen does today both with and without Jack Casady – namely playing old folk and blues standards on acoustic guitar in front of small, but attentive audiences.
Using his tapping foot as a metronome, Kaukonen runs through 11 numbers, plus a false start of “That’ll Never Happen No More,” which also appears in its entirety. Some of these tracks, such as “Let Us Get Together Right Down Here,” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” remain in the repertoire; others, like the instrumental “Dancin’,” would likely leave contemporary concertgoers scratching their heads.
Much more than a document of a young unknown learning his craft, 1964 Cabale Creamery, Berkeley, CA (Live) is a portrait of a nearly fully formed artist at the beginning of what turned out to be a very long and fruitful path.