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Jorma Kaukonen is still flying, (Jefferson) Airplane or not
Jefferson Airplane celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, but guitarist Jorma Kaukonen didn't spend much time having flashbacks -- acid or otherwise.
"It's been interesting," Kaukonen, ??, says by phone from his home in Ohio. He did curate a special Airplane tribute show for the Lockin' Festival in Virginia, but no reunion plans were broached primarily because of singer Grace Slick's retirement from the music biz years ago.
"Thanks to Grace, the pressure's off for the rest of us," says Kaukonen, ??, who released a new solo album, "Ain't No Hurry," in February. "Marty (Balin) wasn't interested. Paul (Kantner) was interested. At this pint we've all got full plates. It was just an honor to be part of the whole thing; you and I might not be having this conversation today if it hadn't been for those wacky guys and gals.
"In some aspects it feels like anther lifetime, but the music still gets played and people still love the hits, 'Somebody To Love' and 'White Rabbit.' So it's still there, y'know?"
Kaukonen also maintains tight ties with Airplane bassist Jack Casady; the two have maintained Hot Tuna, the group they launched during their time in the Airplane, and are planning to record a new album in 2016. and Kaukonen is happily pushing "Ain't In No Hurry," a rootsy 11-song set that mixes originals -- including a new version of Hot Tuna's "Bar Room Crystal Ball" -- and covers, while Kaukonen and fellow guitarist Larry Campbell teamed up to write music for some unreleased Woody Guthrie lyrics that became "Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me."
"Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter and kind of the guardian of the legacy, offered both me and Larry some of Woody's poetry to set to music a number of times. We just never had the project to do it," Kaukonen says. "When this (album) came up, we called Nora and she sent us four of Woody's poems; three were sort of free-form, but 'Suffer Little Children' worked, and because I have a kid that's going to college next year the line 'You go to college and buy your degree really resonated with me. So we were like, 'Yep, that's the one we're going to do.
"It's really cool stuff. When you think about it, who would think you'd ever get the opportunity to put music to one of Woody's poems. It's just unbelievable, y'know?"
7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20.
The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor.
Tickets are $30.
Call 734-761-1451 or visit theark.org.
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