[Alphonso Johnson] and the Jazz Is Dead crew -- drummer Billy Cobham, keyboardist T. Lavitz and guitarist Jimmy Herring -- are touring behind the interesting idea that Grateful Dead songs would be good material for a jazz band to jam on. As Johnson explains, the idea was first floated by booking agent Michael Gaiman.
Since heading out on the Jazz Is Dead tour, Johnson has developed a finer appreciation of the Dead's music. "These are great songs," he says. "I didn't fully appreciate these songs until we got to rehearsal, and they're really, really interesting songs to play." He has also been surprised at the kind of audiences the tour has reached. "It's a nice mix of Grateful Dead fans, fusion fans and jazz fans," he says. "I even see a lot of young, alternative rock fans in the audience. It's really interesting."