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Branford Marsalis’ History With The Grateful Dead, Ahead Of His Collaboration With Dead & Co At LOCKN’

Branford Marsalis' History With The Grateful Dead, Ahead Of His Collaboration With Dead & Co At LOCKN'

Dead & Firm—the Grateful Dead spinoff band that includes guitarist John Mayer, bassist Oteil Burbridge, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti becoming a member of core Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and drummers Invoice Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart—will play their last exhibits of 2018 on Saturday, August 25th, and Sunday, August 26th. These two, two-set dates are a part of the band’s headlining appearances for the ultimate two days of the extremely anticipated LOCKN’ Pageant in Arrington, Virginia, from August 23rd by means of 26th.

Dead & Firm has additionally introduced that jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis can be sitting in for the whole thing of their remaining LOCKN’ set on the August 26th. This can be a large break with the long-standing customized and follow of Grateful Dead and its spinoff bands to not announce visitor artists prematurely; nevertheless, that is an event the place there’s a good cause to take action. To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, Branford Marsalis enjoying Grateful Dead music is type of an enormous deal round right here—large enough that his presence might simply immediate a choice to attend the present.

You’ll be able to learn a break down of Dead & Firm’s summer time up to now right here, and skim on for why Marsalis’ upcoming efficiency with Dead & Firm is such an enormous deal.

Okay, let’s take a step again. Lots of people sat in with the Grateful Dead, proper?

That’s proper. The Grateful Dead had over 100 totally different visitor artists sit in with them over three many years. There have been the tried-and-true regulars who lived within the Bay Space (John Cipollina, Matt Kelly, Hamza El-Din), the rock ‘n’ roll Corridor Of Famers (Carlos Santana, Janis Joplin, Steve Miller, Duane Allman), the legendary brass gamers (Ornette Coleman, David Murray, Clarence Clemons, Carter Beauford), in addition to the chaotic (John Belushi) and the ridiculous (Barney the Dinosaur). More often than not their visitors would sit in for a few songs, and infrequently would play for half a set.

But Branford Marsalis’ appearances with the Grateful Dead stood out amongst all these people?

Branford Marsalis was simply the perfect ongoing visitor collaborator that the Grateful Dead had over their 30 years, and from their first collaborative notes, the connection was based mostly on a deeply exploratory strategy that coincidentally mirrors the general spirit and intent of LOCKN’. It began in March 1990, when Branford accepted the Grateful Dead’s invitation from bassist Phil Lesh to see the band at Nassau Coliseum on Lengthy Island. The following night time, Branford returned, this time together with his devices, and Grateful Dead publicist and historian Dennis McNally recounted it as such:

The best musician to fall into the Dead’s orbit presently did so at a Dead live performance. … At first the band was cautious and “auditioned” Marsalis by asking him to take a seat in on “Bird Song,” late within the first set. By no means did a musician show his brilliance quicker, and about one verse in, (lead guitarist Jerry) Garcia and Marsalis have been buying and selling licks like they have been previous buddies…They flew off the planet to a “Dark Star,” skated alongside the heavens with “Eyes Of The World,” and usually performed one of many best exhibits with a visiting musician the Dead ever managed. Because the Dead truly listened and reacted to their friends, an outsider virtually all the time held them again. However Branford was precisely there with them and pushed them straight to their power – extremely revolutionary improvisation…Marsalis can be a welcome visitor quite a few occasions over the subsequent years. Along with his towering presents as a participant, he delivered to the exhibits a sweetness of disposition that made even the grumpiest drummer smile when informed that Branford was coming. (Dennis McNally, What A Lengthy Unusual Journey It’s Been: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, p. 581–82)

And what did this allegedly grumpy drummer—also referred to as Invoice Kreutzmann—keep in mind concerning the present and about Branford?

We introduced Branford up for a now-legendary model of “Bird Song” through the first set, and it was so good, that we invited him out for the whole second set. Branford performed with us 4 extra occasions over the subsequent 4 years, often for the complete present. These have been good nights. Branford turned a good friend of ours and he stated one thing about us that I’ll always remember: he stated all of us had huge ears. Coming from a monster jazz man like that, it was a monster praise. We might have helped introduce improvisation to rock ‘n’ roll, however the jazz cats had been jamming since earlier than Chuck Berry even picked up his first electrical guitar. Having Branford validate us like that basically meant one thing to me. He advised us that we confirmed him what’s potential inside rock ‘n’ roll and that enjoying with us was one of many biggest thrills of his life. That, in flip, was one of many biggest thrills of mine. (Invoice Kreutzmann, Deal: My Three Many years of Drumming, Goals and Medicine with the Grateful Dead, p. 293)

Branford himself was no much less effusive in his reward of that first present and the Grateful Dead:

  • “Those guys can play music. They’re much better than most people give them credit for. They have big ears and real chops, and they’ve got 18,000 tie-dyes dancing along. I’d never seen anything like it. … They’re fantastic.” (McNally, WALSTIB, p. 582)
  • “Phil was playing in one tempo, the drummers were playing in another, and Jerry was in another – there were three different tempos going – actually Jerry wasn’t even in a tempo. I love playing like that.” (As quoted in an essay by Blair Jackson contained within the Spring 1990 [The Other One] field set guide, p. 57)

Branford even wrote a thank-you notice to the band after the present, which he graciously allowed them to share: “On Thursday night I had the best time I’ve had in my entire life. I now know that playing rock and roll can be all that I have envisioned it would be” (McNally, WALSTIB p. 582).

What about Branford Marsalis’ different collaborations with the Grateful Dead?

Branford Marsalis performed a complete of 5 exhibits as a visitor artist with the Grateful Dead, and whenever, his look generated one of many prime exhibits of that yr. After that preliminary March 1990 present at Nassau Coliseum (commercially out there as Wake Up To Discover Out), Marsalis once more joined the Grateful Dead 9 months afterward New Yr’s Eve in Oakland. Through the New Yr’s Eve present, Marsalis was featured in a 5-song, 100-minute second set that began and completed with “Not Fade Away” (considered one of solely 4 occasions the Grateful Dead ever did this) and in addition contained each “Dark Star” and “Other One” (considered one of solely six occasions this occurred after 1972).

Branford Marsalis’ third look was in September 1991 at New York’s Madison Sq. Backyard and had Phil popping his bass strings funk-style for the opening “Shakedown Street”. The second set featured an all-time model of “Slipknot” and yet one more “Dark Star”. These two exhibits additionally occurred whereas pianist Bruce Hornsby was a member of the band. The fourth and fifth exhibits have been in Los Angeles in December of 1993 and 1994, when Branford was capable of get away from his “day job” on The Tonight Present and jazz up final-era songs like “Eternity” and “Samba In The Rain” together with a few of the extra hallowed and apparent decisions like “The Other One” and “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire On The Mountain”.

Fifteen years later in 2009, Branford additionally sat in on back-to-back nights with The Dead—the spinoff band that includes core-four members Lesh, Weir, Hart, and Kreutzmann together with Chimenti and guitarist Warren Haynes—on their remaining tour on the Izod Middle in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Amongst different issues, the band used the event to play “Milestones”, the Miles Davis quantity that’s been recognized to seem on a few of Dead & Firm’s hottest nights.

What do Deadheads need to say concerning the Grateful Dead’s collaborations with Branford Marsalis?

Okay, listed here are some in-the-know reactions within the wake of that first Nassau present with Branford Marsalis in March 1990:

  • “This concert was what ‘IT’ was all about – that all-too-rare ‘miracle’ show that one spent years pursuing.” — Johnny Dwork, editor, Dupree’s Diamond Information
  • “When the Dead spiraled into the ozone, Branford stayed with them, adroitly maneuvering through the time-bending vortex that the band created…of all the guest musicians who shared the Dead’s stage throughout the years – and they were many and varied – none embodied the Dead’s adventurous, questing spirit and their obsession with beautiful melodies and accessible structures quite like Branford did.” — Blair Jackson, editor, Golden Street Weblog on Dead.internet (the Spring 1990 [The Other One] field set ebook, p. 57–58)
  • “At one point (during Eyes Of The World), Jerry began a solo using a MIDI Choral / Flute combo and continued a theme that Branford had been playing with his sax. It sounded like angels were flying into Nassau Coliseum! And (Dark Star’s post-verse jam) was eleven minutes and nine seconds of the most outside, exploratory music I’ve ever heard thrust out of the Grateful Dead’s PA. … This was easily one of the best shows I’ve ever attended. I still get chills up my back when I listen to the tape.” — David I. Greenberg (John W. Scott, Stu Nixon, & Mike Dolgushkin; Deadbase 1990: The Annual Version of the Full Information to Grateful Dead Songlists)

In the meantime, Grateful Dead archivist and legacy supervisor David Lemieux had this to say concerning the September 1991 present with Branford at Madison Sq. Backyard, which was commercially launched as a part of the sold-out 30 Journeys Round The Solar field set in 2015:

Branford had performed with the band for the primary time at Nassau Coliseum in March of 1990, and greater than another visitor artist, he slot in with the Grateful Dead sound completely completely. A musician’s musician, Branford shared the Dead’s sense of journey and improvisation and will decide up what was happening between the band members – he elevated their efficiency, versus loads of particular visitors for whom the band may need needed to tone it down….they most definitely have been on, when the performed maybe one of the best present of the yr in addition to some of the requested exhibits within the vault. (30 Journeys Round The Solar, 1991 CD liner notes)

And right here’s one other insightful response from Thomas Bellanca on the December 1993 present at Lengthy Seashore Area in Los Angeles:

Branford pushes Jerry, in addition to the remainder of the band, in a approach no different musician can do (Bruce Hornsby excluded!). His enjoying isn’t pressured into the music and blends with distinctive ease. When listening to him play with the Dead, it makes me assume that these songs have been written to incorporate a horn participant. He not solely performs the notes that matter, he performs the notes between the notes, and I feel that it what actually separates him from the others. He actually listens to what’s going on and is ready to decide what and when to play, and the result’s magic. (John W. Scott, Stu Nixon, & Mike Dolgushkin; Deadbase 1993: The Annual Version of the Full Information to Grateful Dead Songlists)

Nevertheless, whereas there’s loads of reward circulating round Marsalis’ sit-ins with the Grateful Dead, sadly, there are additionally cautionary tales to be advised. DeadBase editor John C. Scott missed the preliminary 1990 present, and he was not comfortable about it:

I used to be all the time paranoid about lacking the large one…and I missed the most important of the large ones. For me, the jazz influences on the Grateful Dead have historically led to any of their best improvisations. Two of my favourite years in Grateful Dead music are ’73 and ’74, due to the robust jazz affect My different curiosity in is tapes with visitor musicians performing with the Dead. This night time was my wildest dream come true. It took me a very long time to return to phrases with this tape. Bitter grapes stood in the best way of appreciation for a very long time. (John Scott’s assessment of the Grateful Dead’s Three-29-90 present)

And in a second stroke of dangerous luck, Mr. Scott additionally missed the September 1991 Branford present regardless of attending 12 of the Grateful Dead’s 15 northeast exhibits on the Fall Tour, electing to skip solely the primary three of 9 exhibits at Madison Sq. Backyard:

Rigorously I examined all of the related elements – from the traditional cadence of an extended MSG run (sometimes constructing a sluggish, strong momentum to a last-night peak) via the impracticalities of getting to make to make two spherical journeys to NYC (six hours every method) to calculated strategies from related buddies, runes, the tao, and hen bones. All of the sage recommendation I might muster for this fateful run failed me in a dramatic style…On the third night time, nevertheless, my packing was interrupted by an alleged pal, desperate to run salt into wounds I didn’t even know I had….It is just many months later that I’ve overcome the trauma and am capable of acknowledge this because the best present of the yr, above even the primary and final exhibits of the Halloween run, in addition to any at Boston….It isn’t that Branford is on prime of each music, moderately having him onstage appeared to encourage the band to be on particular person greatest behaviors….in the long run, my solely criticism of this excellent present that the Dead put all of their eggs in a single basket on this night time, leaving the remainder of the stand barren by comparability….given their particular visitor, and the extent of execution on this night time, it was not essential to play so many particular songs in a single live performance. (John W. Scott, Stu Nixon, & Mike Dolgushkin; Deadbase 50: Celebrating 50 Years Of The Grateful Dead)

Let’s return to the great things. What might we anticipate for Dead & Firm’s upcoming efficiency with Branford Marsalis at LOCKN’?

Something within the Dead & Firm repertoire with wide-open areas. Based mostly on previous exhibits, odds are good that “Eyes Of The World,” “Dark Star,” “Help On The Way” > “Slipknot” > “Franklin’s Tower”, “Milestones,” “Estimated Prophet,” “Shakedown Street,” “Cassidy,” “Bird Song,” “The Eleven,” “Let It Grow,” “The Music Never Stopped” and “Playing In The Band” would have the within monitor for appearances. Out of all these numbers, look ahead to an all-time model of “Slipknot” that options Branford Marsalis’ clean brass intertwining with John Mayer’s guitar pyrotechnics.


LOCKN’ Pageant will return to Arrington, Virginia, from August 23rd to 26th. The pageant will host a number of nights of Dead & Firm (together with one with Branford Marsalis), Tedeschi Vans Band, Umphrey’s McGee (together with one with Jason Bonham), Joe Russo’s Virtually Dead, and Lettuce (together with a Jerry Garcia Band tribute set), plus performances from Widespread Panic, Basis of Funk, George Clinton & P-Funk, Sheryl Crow, Pigeons Enjoying Ping Pong, Blues Traveler, Turkuaz, Matisyahu, Toots & The Maytals, Moon Taxi, and far, far more.

For ticketing and extra info, head over to LOCKN’s web site right here.

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