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Devout Catalyst

Ken Nordine

Initial release : January 1992

Grateful Dead Records GDCD 40152

Jerry Garcia and David Grisman contribute to the backing music for this 'word jazz' release on Grateful Dead Records.


  • I Love A Groove
  • Mr. Slick
  • Inside Of Is
  • Aging Young Rebel
  • Quatrains Of Thought
  • Spread Eagle & The Final Page
  • A Thousand Bing Bangs
  • Cracks In The Ceiling
  • Ways Of The Meek
  • The Movie
  • Zodiac Uprising
  • Last Will

  • Ken Nordine - voice
  • Jerry Garcia - acoustic guitar
  • David Grisman - mandolin
  • Howard Levy - keyboards, harmonica
  • Joe Craven - percussion
  • Jim Kerwin - bass
  • Tom Waits - voice (A Thousand Bing Bangs and The Movie)

  • Producer - Dan Healy
  • Production assistant - Dennis McNally
  • Engineer - Jeff Norman
  • Mastering - Joe Gastwirt
  • Art direction - Timothy Harris
  • Illustration - John S. P. Walker
  • Photography - Susana Millman
  • Package design - Fine Line Design
  • CD booklets notes - Ken Nordine, Dennis McNally, Dan Healy
  • Recorded at Club Front, San Rafael, February 1991
  • Mixed at Club Front, San Rafael, April 1991
  • Special thanks - Kris Nordine

Ken Nordine's word jazz recordings are usually filed under spoken word - but that's not quite the case. It's described in the CD notes, with a quote from Nordine, as

"Story telling in lyric form with a sense of grooving to the music.
and by Dennis McNally as
"Rap before there was rap. Not singing, not talking.
Nordine's first word jazz recording was released in 1958 with the Chico Hamilton Group providing the improvised musical background. This recording continues the tradition with Garcia, Grisman, Craven, Kerwin and Howard Levy playing throughout.

In his notes in the CD booklet Nordine comments on the musicians involved;

Was it ever great, doing it the way we did, live and no retakes, all of us together there in the Grateful Dead studio (seems like just a day or so agao) with the music and the words telling each of us what was happening and why. Never in my wildest did I imagine I would be there for real, doing this very special CD that stills seems a dream to me. When I think about it something jumps for joy and goes happy crazy. There we were in this audio heaven way back in the Spring of '91 and now (think I'll pinch myself) what we did is yours to look at with your ears, Thank you, thank you and thanks again to the passionate few who made this happen.

Jerry Garcia with all his heart deep into the strings of his acoustic and with his fingers telling him beautifully where to go and how to get there, and right next to him David Grisman, his virtuosity running up and down the mandolin, as the two of them played be as free as you want to be games (your turn Jerry, now yours Dave, and as quick as a flash the filigree of the two of them together at once), and fitting in fantastically with both of them, close by, was good friend and great talent Howard Levy, who flew out with me from the big windy City to sit in on keyboards and harmonica, and don't forget the subtle percussive taste of Joe Craven bending into the let me help you, I'm listening and you can tell he was, and also playing close attention was thoughtful Jim Kerwin, knowing exactly what was necessary on the tall acoustic bass that he plays so well. Basic to what Jerry and Dave and Howard and Joe and Jim, basic to what they were all musically doing, was the sensitive listening they gave to the words coming out of me and making my talking come as close to song as it's ever been.

Also, a thanks and thanks again to Tom Waits, friend and much more, for the two things he sat in with me on, both of which speak for themselves inside. What a considerable talent is his.

And a paragraph of praise all by itself for Dan Healy who produced this album with what I think you'll agree is an exquisite sense of hearing. He did it with the same understanding of sound and sense that has made him the man who knows how to make a live performance be what it should be: vibrantly alive.. Thanks're the made this all happen, starting last New Year's Eve in the Coliseum in Oakland. First time in my life I ever saw indoor fireworks.

Nordine sat in with the Grateful Dead on March 11, 1993, reciting two pieces, Flibberty Jib and The Island, during space.

Related releases

Nordine's first Word Jazz LP was released in 1958. Since then a number of albums have been released. Cassettes of his radio shows are also commercially available.

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