Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen couldn't possibly have accommodated all the requests he received last night at Desperado's, but he certainly tried. The former member of the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna played an impressive and quite lengthy opening set before a capacity crowd that clearly got its money's worth.
Kaukonen played two amplified acoustic guitars alternately, striking a happy medium between the blues and ragtime strains that first attracted him to music and the more dreamy tonal effects he used with Hot Tuna. He was at his best playing the delightfully syncopated lines of the Rev. Gary Davis' "Hesitation Blues," singing the lyrics convincingly in a typically hushed drawl. Similar ragged inflections lit up Jelly Roll Morton's "Winin' Boy" and, to a lesser degree, Kaukonen's own "I Am the Light of the World."
Kaukonen never indulged in the cluttered electronic gadgetry Hot Tuna often favored, but he did offer some impressionism that lacked focus and eventually began to wander. That was nothing more than a momentary lapse, however, in a concert filled with irresistible melodies and emphatic blues. Among the latter were particularly dark and brooding versions of "Death Don't Have No Mercy" and "Another Man Done Gone." Kaukonen was playing this sort of music long before he ever heard of the Jefferson Airplane, and he never lost the touch. He appears again tonight.