Ari Joshua’s cover of Help On The Way, originally by The Grateful Dead is an achingly smooth recreation, full of love and respect for the original while bringing the track into the future through subtle but effective tonal changes. We sat down with Joshua to get a sense of his musical journey and what led him to create this track. Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, you get a sense immediately of how much that city is a part of Joshua and his music. Every note of the track feels infused with the city’s sun-bleached streets, especially in the ambient section towards the beginning.
“There is poverty, and there is beauty. The mountains, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, The Apostles. It’s almost biblical. I love it.” This sense of awe feels reflected in the majesty of the track. The smooth guitar runs, the spaced-out mix, the subtle drumming - all these aspects come together in a way that emphasises the negative space in the recording, leaving you reflecting on the power of the composition.
When I asked Joshua about his career, past and present, his response was “I can’t think of it like that. It’s just this re-curing now that keeps happening.” I think this unique attitude permeates the track on a micro and macro scale. The song does a great job at building on what The Grateful Dead had created with their own flair but not with the sense of looking back or an intention to replicate. It feels as if he is bringing the track back for the “recurring now.” In terms of the track itself, each moment passes without pomp or ceremony, allowing the Jazz aspects to flow smoothly. To me, this feels like another example of not holding onto the past and living in the recurring now.
Joshua explained to me that he wants listeners to find a way past the notes of the track and into the emotional intention behind it. “I would most like listeners to hear that the music is more than just music, it’s a culmination of all the heartache, and missteps I have made, and all the daily life stuff that goes into being here.” The track manages to turn the mess and mundanity everyday life into something beautiful with its raw and honest energy, especially through the vocal performance. There is an emotional honesty that comes through in the vocals that reflects the sentiment he talks about. I think this rawness also reflects a deep understanding of the emotional tone of the source material.
Overall, this is a track with a tonne of heart that manages to reflect an experience that is both individual and universal at the same time. I highly recommend checking it out.
I had a good time chatting with Ari Joshua. If you want to check out the interview portion in more detail, I’ve left it unedited below.
Q1:What are you announcing?
Specifically what you reached out to me about was last month's release of Help On the Way with John Kimock, Andy Hess, Eden Ladin, and Myself. In general I am announcing lots of new music, all the time, new music through my label The Music Factory, and music lessons available online through The Music Factory!
Q2:Who is it for?
The music, this track, Help On the Way is sort of for me firstly. It’s because I love Jerry and the Dead so much, and I love the mission and the fans. Also I love the players and spending time with them. The lessons are for students of all instruments, levels, and styles. I love to share my love for music. The music itself is for the jazz, jamband, and rock music fans out there looking for some honest, genuine , expressive and original art.
Q3:What do you want the impact to be?
That is up to the listener, but I want to resonate with other souls, and share the art with folks like me who appreciated all the art that came before. I used to play with Joe Russo and Marco Benevento back in the day, I have been covering these songs as well since I was a teen. I guess I wanna be considered for some tours, and build a fan base, I wanna just make music! All I can do is all I can do!
Q4:When is it available?
Help On the Way is available now and every month going on for the next foreseeable future there will be more releases. Just this last month, Eyes Of the World, Help On the Way, Kambo Wambo, Dragons Layer, and Nun Kommt es Weirder all have been released and I love them all!
Q5:What made you want to make this?
Music is something that gives me a reason to get up and live each day. It both has saved my life and the lives of so many other people. I feel like I owe it to the universe to just keep creating and sharing this thing. You know the whole universe may just be music in a way. It’s all waves, and timing. I really loved what John Kimock has been doing and all the stuff he is involved in. This particular project was built around that.
I just wanna be one of those people making this music and reaching people who need it!
Q6:What makes this project special?
In the case of Help On the Way, it’s really special because of the players and the history of the music. I love the Grateful Dead, I saw them in high school. As with all the stuff I love I want to just keep it moving forward. But Andy Hess is a special player, he has been with The Black Crowes, Gov't Mule, John Scofield, and just so much legacy and music. Eden Ladin is just one of the most amazing piano players out there. I met him after a Kurt Rosenwinkel set at The Village Vanguard and invited him on in the session, Eden is all over the world, it’s a wonder it all came together! As I said John Kimock is sort of a prince on the scene, he is like royalty, and the way he plays it all adds up. I love his playing. I love to be a part of all the amazing things he is a part of. It was also special in that the studio, The Bunker Studio in New York, was started by my college buddies while we were still in college. I touched base with Aaron and Jon the owners when setting the session up. They squeezed us at the last minute and I am so lucky! For those reasons this project was really special. As well in so much as time is so precious, and these moments are so much a blessing, it’s a miracle we are all here at all, and to be doing what I love, and making this art is so special in and of itself.
Q7:Who/what inspired this project?
This session was just the result of fate, and timing, and some shared ideas of why we all love to make music, and the kind of music we all love to make. I am happy to say the release happened to land on the shore of Dead and Companies last shows, and as well, for Jerry Garcia’s Birthday but that was really not planned. None of it was too planned, more just a moment in time where things lined up.
Q8:What do you want the audience to get out of this song?/What would you most like listeners to feel when they hear your music?
I would most like listeners to hear that the music is more than just music, it’s a culmination of all the heartache, and miss steps I have made, and all the daily life stuff that goes into being here. As well it’s a light that shines through it all. These notes are notes but there is more to it than that. The music is like 13.8 billion years old, it’s the evolution and the transfer of information that has gone on for so long. We are the universe really. We are here now and this is all happening, and the music is an expression of feelings, it sounds kind of ‘woo woo’ but man it’s pretty real for me. So I would say be here with me through this amazing artform.
Q9:What are the influences for your music as a whole? (A mix between X and Y)
As a whole my music is a mix of information gathered from the legends that have walked this earth. Miles Davis, Coltrane, The Dead, Phish, The Seattle Rock thing, all the folks alive still and all that. I mean I am as much influenced by the night sky as anything, I also love fine art, and I love good people.
Q10:How did you get into music (how old were you when you first got into music/ what was your first instrument?/Did any particular artist inspire you?)
I was first exposed to music via my grandmother’s record player in Cape Town. After that I was always a deep listener. We also sang a lot of prayers in my school when I moved to the states. It was a daily thing, My folks got me a piano early on and I got pretty good. My teacher was pleased anyways but I wanted to rock out. My first guitar came from my neighbor Barry up the street. I wanted guitar so bad I learned a bunch of Hendrix by ear right away. I was hooked.
Q11:What are your interests/ hobbies?
I love to eat good food, I love to be in nature, I love to be outside on a starlit night, I love to get deep with people, I love to meditate too.
Q12: Tell me about your background e.g. where did you go to school? Were you popular?
Was I popular? No, not popular like normally you would think. But I had a big beard and afro in High School and got along with all the clicks. I never really had my own click but got along with everyone. Our Jazz Band was pretty amazing. We won awards and stuff to the athletes and popular folks had a lot of respect for us. My background is just too big a story to get into. But it all started on the southern tip of Africa, and it’s been the most epic journey. I can’t wait to get it all off my chest and share it all.
Q13:Tell me about your career, past and present.
I can’t really think of it like that. Really it’s just this re-curing now that keeps happening. I just want to do more art and connect with each moment, and each ‘now’.
Q14:Tell me about any gigs, previous recordings or musical achievements you feel proud of (even as a kid).
I loved playing the star spangled banner for graduation at Roosevelt High School. I got a few big Marshall amps and had my Hendrix moment.
Q15:Who would it be your dream to collaborate with?
I have recently collaborated with a few dream artists. I love all the Seattle Grunge players, I wanna work with all of them. For Jazz maybe Metheney or Rosenwinkel. Herbie Hancock could be a dream. Also all the Jam veterans. Phish members, and Dead members.
Q16:What's next for you? (Gigs, forthcoming releases, video, live streams, EP, album?)
So much music is being worked on right now. I am doing it song by song cause I spend 5 days mixing each song. I go all in, and explore a lot. I try stuff out, I am trying to get a special sound. I am looking for a booking agent so I can travel and reach more people. Also my school The Music Factory is looking to expand as well. Offering in home and online lessons is the plan.
Q17:Tell me about your hometown/ city and how it influenced you musically.
Cape Town is where I am from. I recorded with some cats there like 10 years ago and hope to release that music soon. The city has a vibe. I almost feel Nelson Mandela in every person there. It’s Africa so there is poverty, and there is beauty. The mountains, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, The Apostles. It’s almost biblical. I love it, the ocean, the weather, the people, it’s in my veins and my heart. It’s just with me everywhere I go. I sometimes feel out of place in the US. The way people are vs in South Africa.