Having just cruised through this thread (w/o actually listening to any of the links YET) I have to say this is one hellova fun and informative read. Thanks guys! I'll be using every bit of this one for quite a while methinks.
Imagine how happy I am to have started the thread! Such a great discussion and great group.
In reaction to some of the more recent posts, I have a few thoughts: I personally draw a meaningful distinction between Jerry's playing and his tone(s) through the years. His playing is immediately recognizable...and subtle, moody--all that stuff Dylan said. Absolutely. But to echo Waldo, there's also this intriguing, engaging progression of tones over the years. And to a certain kind of listener, this is a huge element in our appreciation for the man and his art. I'm fascinated (my wife would say obsessed!) by this evolution and really enjoy studying it, diving in, trying to figure it out...and where I find what he was doing especially provocative at some point in time, I like the idea of trying to capture some of that sound for myself, discussing it with others, doing the forensic analysis. At each step along the way, there's a special thrill in getting close, if not just exactly perfect! I suspect that many others are like me: you know the average listener--and even the average Deadhead--doesn't really care about any of this; you know that maybe 90% of the magic was simply in the man's hands; and you know that total replication (in your own bedroom?) is a long shot at best. But that's not what it's about, anyway. There's a special kind of magic in some of those tones that simply fixes your attention. Hey, what can I say...Jerry was a late 20th-century Pan equipped with a battery of badass flutes! Some of us are forever under the spell.
Now...really, can anyone actually nail this tone?