Drummer Mickey Hart has Rhythm in Mind

Drummer Mickey Hart's search for fascinating rhythms never stops.

During his stints with the Grateful Dead — from 1967 to 1971, and 1974 to 1995 — he and fellow Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann got tagged with the nickname "rhythm devils."

In 1991, Hart won a Grammy Award for best world-music album with "Planet Drum," which also hit No. 1 on the Billboard World Music Chart and stayed there for 26 weeks.

Since then, working with his own Mickey Hart Band and scientific consultants, he has explored the rhythms of the universe, based on lightwaves from radio telescopes, translated by computer into sound waves.

On his new album, "Superorganism," wearing a cap outfitted with sensors, he's translating the rhythms of his own brain waves into music. But that doesn't mean the music is purely cerebral.

"My whole life is about rhythm, and the brain is rhythm central," said Hart, who lives outside Sebastopol. "It's music to dance to. It'll take you there."

With his 70th birthday coming up Sept. 11, he's launching his album release tour with a show Thursday at Healdsburg's Raven Theater.

"We want to celebrate my 70 years, but we don't want to get too crazy over this," Hart said with a laugh. "It's only 70. It's not like it's 90."

The tour will take him and his band all over the country, with the final concert scheduled for Sept. 26 in Bethlehem, Pa.

"There will be nights, perhaps not every night, where I'll put on the cap and you'll be able to see my brain waves in real time on the screen," Hart said.

The album features music improvised from the rhythms of the brain and heart and then recorded, with words by Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.

"Sometimes Hunter sends me lyrics, and he'll respond to music I send him, but usually he responds with something far more incredible than I ever could have thought of," Hart said. "We're very much in tune with each other. I've known him since 1967."

In the Grateful Dead tradition, the Mickey Hart Band won't even try to reproduce its new album note for note onstage.

"The Grateful Dead never even had a set list," Hart recalled. "Once we were out of the cage of the studio, we were able to make each of these songs come alive again. That's what I look forward to."

During their decades together, the players in the Grateful Dead developed an almost telepathic rapport, and that's Hart's goal for the Mickey Hart Band.

The group includes Tony Award-winning singer Crystal Monee Hall, percussionist Sikiru Adepoju, singer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Bagale, drummer Greg Schutte, guitarist Gawain Matthews, bassist Reed Mathis of Tea Leaf Green, and keyboardist Jonah Sharp.

"I'm just going to play this year," Hart said. "We're going on the road to see what this music sounds like in an improvisational form. Music has to happen in the moment, or it doesn't happen."

By – Dan Taylor

The Press Democrat