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POP : Reheated Tuna: Old '60s Heads Getting It Back Together in '90s

February 28, 1991|MIKE BOEHM | Mike Boehm covers pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

Hot Tuna has never come off as a Type A type of band.

It began as a laid-back spinoff from one of the all-time nerve-frazzled rock groups, the Jefferson Airplane. The Airplane took itself pretty seriously in the '60s as a setter of countercultural styles and political agendas, and it had its share of stormy internal politics among three front-line singers and songwriters, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and Marty Balin.

In 1970, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, the Airplane's lead guitarist and bassist, respectively, launched Hot Tuna as a side project devoted to the more easygoing pleasures of folk and blues roots. The two were high school friends from Washington, D.C. (Kaukonen had moved to San Francisco and hooked up in with Airplane founder Kantner; when the fledgling Airplane needed a bassist, Kaukonen summoned his old buddy, Casady). By 1972, Kaukonen and Casady had baled out of the Airplane and devoted themselves full time to Hot Tuna.

They recorded steadily, moving from an acoustic blues sound to a full-out electric approach until Hot Tuna disbanded in 1978. Over the past five years, though, Kaukonen and Casady have reunited as Hot Tuna, playing as an acoustic duo, or bringing in various helpers for different tours, including Kantner and violinist Papa John Creach. In its current incarnation, Hot Tuna is a full electric band.

One of the highlights of the spotty Jefferson Airplane reunion tour in 1989 was Jack and Jorma's show-within-a-show, a set of Hot Tuna blues they performed as a duo midway through the concert. That showing helped Kaukonen, 50, and Casady, 46, land a new recording deal with Epic Records. Their 1990 comeback album, "Pair A Dice Found," is a grab-bag that ranges from "Urban Mood," an atmospheric, spoken narrative akin to some of Robbie Robertson's solo work, to electric rockers to mellow acoustic blues. In a nod to the duo's '60s origins, the album also includes a surprisingly laid-back version of the apocalyptic "Eve of Destruction."

Who: Hot Tuna.

When: Thursday, Feb. 28, at 8 p.m.

Where: The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

Whereabouts: San Diego Freeway to the San Juan Creek Road exit. Left onto Camino Capistrano. The Coach House is in the Esplanade Center.

Wherewithal: $19.50.

Where to Call: (714) 496-8930.

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