The last time I saw Tea Leaf Green live, in 2005, the San Francisco-based jam band had already earned a reputation as dynamic performers. But a couple of lineup changes in recent years have expanded the band’s musical palette, even as their songwriting has become more concise.
Keyboardist Trevor Garrod, with his old-timey, Dylanesque vocal style, led the country-blues of opener “I’ve Got a Truck” while guitarist Josh Clark gave a guttural reading of the Meat Puppets’ cover “Lake Of Fire.” The 2007 addition of former Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey bassist Reed Mathis gives Tea Leaf Green a third vocalist, one who can sing high harmonies, as well as an otherworldly musician who can solo in the upper register and play in a variety of styles.
Newer tunes such as “All Washed Up,” a rhythmic journey fueled by dual drummers Scott Rager and Cochrane McMillan, who joined the lineup last year; electro-funk jam “Germinating Seeds” and the swirling “Fallen Angel” demonstrated Tea Leaf Green’s continual evolution into a more song-oriented band while still allowing the musicians room to stretch.
Garrod, Clark and Mathis all took turns soloing throughout the 100-minute set, continually finding new avenues in which to travel, but always returning to the melody before the music flattened out. With this five-piece lineup, Tea Leaf Green has moved yet closer to the perfect balance of exploration and constraint. ★★★☆☆