Melvin Seals and JGB

Feb. 25, 2016, Soundstage, Baltimore, MD

written by Cliff Tyler

Photos by Alligator’s Attic

            Melvin Seals is perhaps the finest organist to ever grace the keys of a Hammond B-3.  He also happens to have been in the Jerry Garcia Band for 18 years.  With decades of touring experience under his belt, after Jerry died Melvin stepped up and decided to continue and try to deliver the same kind of music in the spirit of the revered guitarist.  Melvin Seals and JGB have featured a flexible lineup over the years.  Currently the band includes Jean-Paul McLean on bass, Pete Lavezolli on drums, as well as Shirley Starks and Cheryl Rucker on back up vocals.  Dave Hebert is the lead guitarist and lead vocalist.  He does a very good job of recreating that much sought out Garcia tone with both his vocals and his guitar work.  The band is very tight and Melvin’s Leslie speaker cabinet wails so beautifully that it’s almost more prominent in the music that the guitar.

Thursday February 25th, Melvin and his band performed at Baltimore Soundstage in the city’s Power Plant entertainment complex.  As the band took the stage it almost seemed like Mr. Seals was in a spot light, perhaps signaling that he is now the heart and soul of this band.  They quickly kicked into a groove and the dance party was on.  Having only ever heard these songs on some type of recording, a live interpretation was almost breath taking. Dave and Melvin passed the melodies back and forth all night and kept the crowd begging for more.  A nice bunch of folks gathered for a Thursday evening and everybody was all smiles and sang along word for word. Early in the first set the band broke into the opening notes of Jimmy Cliff’s classic “The Harder They Come” and the kids in attendance went wild.  In the second set we were all treated with a very special guest.  Infamous saxophonist and wizard of the sit in, Ron Holloway emerged with the band and got right to work.  The final portion of the show was just amazing.  Melvin and friends took us down memory lane with takes on “Ain’t No Bread in the Bread Box” and “Waiting on a Miracle”.  The show came to an end with a lovely version of the gospel infused “Sisters and Brother” and the Garcia classic “Deal”.

Drinks were finished, tabs were paid, and goodbyes were begrudgingly shared.  Simply put, no one wanted to leave.  Melvin Seals and JGB have accomplished exactly what they set out to do.  When Jerry Garcia passed in late summer of 1995 a great void was left that his music once filled.  Melvin Seals has graciously helped to carry on part of the legacy of that music and he and his band do it in an excellent manner.  If you enjoy the soothing sounds of Jerry’s solo work, please go see and hear Melvin Seals and JGB’s rendition of the catalogue.  Their sets vary every night and they make sure to include plenty of favorites as well as much sought after rarities.  For more information on the band and where you can go see them please check out