Theme from Summer of ’73 – “The Phil Jazz Jam” (2nd Edition)

Cover art by M. DeNoor 

Repost with improved musical program. Details at the bottom, if you care. 

On the 45th anniversary summer of these performances, a mix ideally suited to any Deadhead’s summer listening. 

The Grateful Dead played live only sporadically in the spring and summer of 1973 – just 15 shows over five months, at only 10 venues. The Dead haven’t officially released anything from this period, that I am aware of, except the spectacular “Watkins Glen Jam.”

“The Watkins Glen Jam” is relevant here, because this mix is also an improbably long stretch of Summer '73 improvisation without more than a passing reference to identifiable songs. 

That summer, an improvisational theme in 6/8 that had been kicking around since late 1972 suddenly became the Dead’s regularly recurring jam, only to die out again in the early fall. It’s almost an extra Grateful Dead song from the period, sort of a relaxed version of Phil’s 1973-1974 “Eyes of the World” riff, leaning forward toward 1975’s “Stronger Than Dirt.” 

For more scholarship on this and other Dead themes, go here.

The accepted name for this theme seems to be “The Phil Jazz Jam,” and I’ve woven together five full-blown summer ’73 performances of it with other outstanding, non-song-based improvisation from that summer. 

The resulting mix is a five-part, early-Seventies “The Other One” from a parallel universe, in which “The Phil Jazz Jam” holds down that position. It’s an imaginary, extra “Watkins Glen Jam,” blown out to more than twice the length, with scads of different areas of exploration. It’s an outdoor, afternoon-into-sunset show in a meadow that you never heard about. It’s the unjustifiably neglected Summer of 1973 Grateful Dead, sending you a postcard from a wonderful place – a place that is not 1972, Spring 1973, Fall 1973, or 1974. 

67-minute mp3 mix here (with all relevant information included in mp3 tags)

  • Phil Jazz Jam (6/24/73)
  • Jam (7/1/73)
  • Jam with Phil Jazz Jam moments (5/13/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (7/1/73)
  • Jam (6/9/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam > (6/29/73)
  • Jam (6/29/73)
  • Jam (6/30/73)
  • Jam > (6/22/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (6/22/73)
  • Space (6/10/73)
  • Quiet Improvisation (7/1/73)
  • Quiet Improvisation (8/1/73)
  • Jam (6/10/73)
  • Jam (6/23/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (5/20/73)

If you want more all-out playing from summer 1973, go here.

What's different in this second version? I've added notable material that I previously excluded because I'd posted it in another context, or because I'd overlooked it.  I've adjusted the track markers to separate every "Phil Jazz Jam" from any additional improvisation that it is attached to. I also fixed a section of one performance where the channels were flipped for several minutes.

Shortlist: October 27, 1973 – Indianapolis, Indiana

Cover illustration by Luigi Serafini, from "Storie Naturali"

The Dead played this show on my birthday, an easy drive from where I lived at the time. Unfortunately, I was turning eight years old and wasn’t paying attention. But that’s okay, because the gift waited patiently for me to finally unwrap it.

Although this show has escaped The Dead’s generous approach to releasing Fall 1973 recordings, it has as much superb material in it as nearly any of them. 

My curation is built around two uninterrupted pieces of the second set. My arrangement of other songs around those pieces follows The Dead’s lead, when they decided to play a couple of first set songs in the middle of a fantastic second set “Playin’” jam. 

Parts of this show only circulate as audience recordings. The soundboard of everything else captures a rather wonderful mix, but for some reason the frequency spread of the circulating soundboard is all out of whack. It comes across as brittle, shrill, sterile, stabby, insubstantial, etc. I don’t know if this is a feature of the master tape or of a transferring snafu somewhere down the line.

But fear not! I obtained a FLAC file and gave it enough of a re-EQ to turn down the stabby and to bring up the warmth and depth, until it became a fully immersive Fall 1973 experience. Happy birthday.

90-minute 320kbps mp3 mix here

  • Beat It On Down the Line
  • Me and Bobby McGee
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Playin’ in the Band >
  • Mississippi Half-Step >
  • Big River >
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • They Love Each Other
  • He’s Gone Jam >
  • Truckin’ >
  • Nobody’s Fault Jam
  • Loose Lucy


Shortlist: March 31, 1973 - Buffalo, NY

On the 45th anniversary of its playing, here’s a bookend to the February-March ‘73 material I’ve been posting lately. This is the next-to-last show of the March tour of the Northeast, which began in Uniondale, NY. The final show of the tour (4/2/73 Boston) was released as “Dave’s Picks” #21.

Unless I’m missing something, there’s no released show between 4/2/73 and 10/19/73. Dick Latvala maintained that the band flagged in the middle of the year, and I guess subsequent archivists have agreed. 

There are some obvious flaws in the material I’ve judged best from this show but it’s not for lack of The Dead trying and generally succeeding wonderfully. The sound of the mix/tape is great for instruments and not too hard on group vocals. 

70-minute mp3 mix here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/khddft26pjbfem7/GD%20shortlist%2073-03-31.zip?dl=0

  • Bertha >
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • The Race is On
  • They Love Each Other
  • Mississippi Half-Step (instrumental edit)
  • He’s Gone >
  • Truckin’ (instrumental edit) >
  • Drums >
  • The Other One > Spanish Jam > The Other One >
  • Space >
  • Jam > I Know You Rider
  • Casey Jones

Points of interest:

This is the only instance of “I Know You Rider” NOT following “China Cat Sunflower” between late 1971 and late 1985. The performance of the song itself isn’t fantastic, but the three minutes between the end of “Space” and the first word of “Rider” are noteworthy. They begin a free-form jam (which an audience member recognizes and gets vocally excited about) that morphs into the “Feelin’ Groovy” jam, leading to “Rider.” 

Shortlist: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – March 1973

Cover art: Detail from Max Weber, “New York at Night”

For their first tour of 1973, The Dead were in the Midwest from the middle to the end of February. After two weeks off, they toured the Northeast from the middle of March through April 2.

The tour started with three shows at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on the 15th, 16th, and 19th, excerpts from which are combined here. These shows remain unreleased.

This run, and the 16th in particular, has numerous excellent “smaller songs,” but the mix posted here is a continuation of the jammy mashups I posted of the February shows

Aside from the edits that are obvious from the track list, the only things I’ve cut out that interrupt continuous Dead performances are two noodly-to-shrieky spaces that offered nothing special and broke the momentum. 

A pretty “Dark Star” that’s not sure how solid it wants to get nonetheless comes to a swelling climax, then gives way to an autonomous six-minute jam, which then slides back into a perfectly executed “Dark Star” verse. Several minutes of unorthodox, wandering around jamming ensues, leading into “Truckin.”

This is one of the earliest performances of “Truckin’” transitioning into the “Nobody’s Fault” jam. 

This 3/15 “Eyes” jam was the sonic rescue mission of this mix. It is easily one of the most involving and successful (and yet unique) of the early performances, but the soundboard of it has many dramatic volume fluctuations. I’ve fixed those pretty well and want to advise you that the performance overwhelms the sonic gremlins that remain. 

The other two 3/15 songs are likewise exceptional. “China Doll” has many exquisite details. “The Other One” is aggressively adventurous and almost becomes a separate jam. The 3/15 soundboard has the drums mixed way too loud, but on “The Other One” and the “Eyes” jam, this is a plus, and it doesn’t impact “China Doll.” 

77-minute mp3 mix here

  • Dark Star (3/16) >
  • Jam (3/16) >
  • Dark Star (3/16) >
  • Jamming Around (3/16) >
  • Truckin’ > Nobody’s Fault Jam (3/16 > 3/19) > 
  • Drums (3/19) >
  • The Other One (3/15) >
  • Eyes of the World (intro & jam 3/15) >
  • China Doll (3/15)
  • Morning Dew (3/16)

Shortlist: Midwest Tour, February 1973 (part two)

This post completes my jam-centric reduction of February 1973 Dead shows. Boy, they were playing great. 

I posted highlights of Palo Alto (2/9) here.

I posted a mashup of Madison, St. Paul, and Chicago (2/15, 2/17, 2/19) here.

This third installment presents material from Champaign-Urbana, IL (2/21 & 2/22) and Iowa City (2/24). 

The next two shows, the last of the February tour, are documented on Dick’s Picks #28 (Lincoln, NB & Salt Lake City on the 26th and 28th).

86-minute mp3 mix here

  • Truckin’ > Bass & Drums (2/21) > 
  • Eyes of the World (2/21 > 2/22) >
  • China Doll (2/22)
  • Playin’ in the Band (2/22)
  • Dark Star (2/22) >
  • Space (2/22) >
  • Bass > Feelin’ Groovy Jam (2/24) >
  • Sugar Magnolia (2/24) 

Shortlist: Midwest Tour, February 1973

This mix combines performances from The Dead’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th shows of 1973, in Madison, WI, St. Paul, MN, and Chicago. If I do say so myself, the result is mighty. "Bertha" starts smoldering around :38 and ignites at 1:20. It doesn't let up after that for more than 100 minutes. 

After five weeks off, The Dead started 1973 with a stand-alone show in Palo Alto, CA on February 9th. On the 15th, they began an eight-show tour with concerts in the wintery, upper Midwest. Nothing from this tour earlier than the 26th, in Lincoln, Nebraska, seems to have been released.

This mix pulls from those initial Madison, St. Paul, and Chicago shows, but it is also a companion to the mix I made from the year-starting show in Palo Alto (which has the greatest early “Eyes”). Together, these two mixes are my early ’73 Road Trip – the first four shows of the year in digest form. 

From a historical documentary POV, these early ’73 shows look exciting because they unleash seven new Garcia songs and a fun cover sung by Donna. From an aesthetic POV, not many performances of those new songs are worth hearing repeatedly. The really amazing parts of these shows are elsewhere. If you look in the right places, the band was extremely hot out of the gate in '73.

107-minute mix here (source dates included in mp3 tags). 

  • Bertha (5:22)
  • Here Comes Sunshine (instr.) > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (16:45)
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road > Not Fade Away (14:06)
  • Dark Star (11:42)
  • He’s Gone (14:11)
  • The Other One (18:55)
  • Playin’ in the Band > China Doll (20:35)
  • Birdsong (instr. 6:24)

Shortlist: February 9, 1973 – Palo Alto, CA

I can’t let the 45th anniversary of this show pass without paying tribute to the wonderful jamming it included. 

It’s the first show of 1973, and it’s famous because it featured debuts of seven new songs. But it’s mostly a messy, rusty show, the new songs not rehearsed enough, old songs not rehearsed at all. There were also a lot of technical difficulties with a new sound system.

Nonetheless, the band was clearly very excited to be doing this again, after five weeks off. The “Playin’” jam is wonderfully involved and never breaks stride, and the two new songs that were truly ready for prime time are superb. I think this is the best of the first three, exploratory “Eyes” jams,” and the execution of the song itself is exceptional. 

56-minute mix here

https://www.dropbox.com/s/dv8uw104uw4hgzy/GD%20Shortlist%2073-02-09.zip?dl=0

  • PA: Wavy Gravy
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Uncle John’s Band (instrumental edit)
  • Playin’ in the Band (instrumental edit)
  • Eyes of the World (first time played) >
  • China Doll (first time played)


The Horn Section Episode – September, 1973

MP3s of both discs zipped up here

Main Course: 67 minutes

  • Prelude (Providence) 1:23
  • Let It Grow (instrumental edit – Buffalo) 10:31
  • Guest Player Introductions (Syracuse) 0:11
  • Eyes of the World > (Buffalo) 4:55
  • Eyes Jam (Buffalo) 9:31
  • Truckin’ (Providence) 10:57
  • Sugar Magnolia (Buffalo) 9:13
  • Weather Report Suite > (Syracuse) 11:58
  • Let It Grow Jam (Syracuse) 4:09
  • One More Saturday Night (Buffalo) 4:41

Bonus Disc: 56 minutes

  • Weather Report Suite > (Providence) 12:23
  • Let It Grow Jam (Providence) 6:13
  • Eyes of the World > (Syracuse) 7:24
  • Eyes Jam (Syracuse) 7:09
  • Let Me Sing Your Blues Away (Syracuse) 5:14
  • Let It Grow > (Williamsburg 9/12) 6:01
  • Let It Grow Jam (Williamsburg 9/12) 6:34
  • Casey Jones (Philadelphia) 5:00

After contributing to the recording of “Wake of the Flood,” Joe Ellis (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Martin Fierro (flute, saxophone) went on the road with The Dead for nine shows in September 1973. 

It was a fairly ramshackle affair. The horn section audibly contributed to only seven songs, several of them performed only once or twice. Some of them are quite well arranged/developed and some sound almost ad hoc, just an idea or two, repeated. 

As we’ve always known, the horn episode didn’t live up to the potential inherent in the idea of The Dead taking trumpets, flutes, and saxes onstage in 1973.

The first half of my curation is the best I can do to forge the horn episode into a compelling, surprising, frequently amazing listening experience with minimal repetition. It approximates a one-hour, all-horns set.

The second half (the bonus disc) is the “best of the rest,” mostly. To be considered, a recording had to be high-fi, and the horns had to be clear in the mix, and the second disc contains most of what hit that threshold without being the best representative sample, IMO. I think there is perhaps no definitive performance of "Let Me Sing Your Blues Away."

In the cases of “Let It Grow” and “Eyes,” the horn playing is great during the instrumental breaks in the latter portions of the songs themselves. However, I’ve put a seamless track division before the all-out jamming, because that’s where the horn episode really delivers on 1973 Dead promise. Fiero and Ellis play wildly and wonderfully, soloing, getting really far out, sound-wise. They and the band respond to each other, and it leads to some great places.  It’s a shame that they weren’t given a chance to shake up other improvisational songs. Anyway, while I’m not suggesting you skip the song sections, there’s great pleasure to be had in listening to just the jams. (On the "bonus disc," the "Eyes" jam is nothing special, compared to the Buffalo version, but both "Let It Grow" jams are excellent.)

There was no feasible song/jam cut-point in the one performance of "Truckin'." The horns don't come in until the later stages of the song section, but they're all-in pretty fast, and propel the transition out of vocals and into the immediate "Truckin'" jam. When the band takes that turn that moves closer to "Nobody's Fault," the horns sit back for a while, but they come back in for a very nice stretch. Outside of "Let It Grow" and "Eyes," this is the only place the horns seem to have improvised in wide open space with the band.

The Buffalo “Let It Grow” and “Eyes” performances are the greatest things to come out of this collaboration, IMO. It was the final horn section show, and it’s as close as The Dead ever got to sounding like The Mothers of Invention. RZZZZZ!

Source and editing notes:

  • Not included here are tracks from the first horn section show, which I previously shortlisted here.
  • Aside from the track separations before jams, I haven’t messed with much here. The whole Providence “Suite” appears on the bonus disc, but I’ve also isolated the “Prelude” to start the main course, because it features a unique Fiero flute part, while its “Part 1” section is very sluggish. The Buffalo “Let It Grow” is edited down to an instrumental version partly because it’s awesome that way and partly because of an audience tape patch that I didn’t want to ever hear again. Likewise, I’ve removed an audience patch from the Buffalo “Eyes” (first chorus and instrumental break) and made the splice more listener-friendly. I only included the full “Weather Report Suites” in cases where the horn players were evident in the “Prelude.” You can hardly hear the horns in "Casey Jones," but I included it to cover all the songs that included horns.


Shortlist: June 9, 1973 – Washington, D.C.

Artwork by Moebius.

71-minute mp3 mix here

  • Deal (4:31)
  • Loose Lucy (8:04)
  • Row Jimmy (instrumental edit) (2:25)
  • Sugaree (7:43)
  • Eyes of the World (11:22)
  • He’s Gone Jam > (6:56)
  • Truckin’ (intro & jam) > Other One > Space > (6:40)
  • Playin’ in the Band (23:37)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Deadhead in possession of a good 1973 soundboard, must find something to love in it. 

This show (and its recording) are quite rightly overshadowed by the following day’s concert, 6/10/73, which ran to 4.5 hours, with three sets, the final one played with the Allman Brothers Band. I’m surprised it hasn’t been released yet; maybe the master tape is missing? 

I’ve circled around this day-before show for a long time, chipping away at it, wondering how short it was going to get before I loved every minute of it. That tipping point occurred when I had reduced the original 3.5 hours to 71 minutes. Four songs from each set. 

My picks result from the usual, vague combination of performance quality and how well the show’s sound mix does or does not favor a particular song. 

A few points of interest:

  • “Playin’” begins nearly a minute-and-a-half before the count-in; they walked up to the start of the song as if they were headed for the reprise. Additionally, the jam never spaces out, aside from a brief launching pad for the build to the reprise, so it’s a very long jam.
  • This is one of my favorite “Loose Lucys.” It’s so long that I made an instrumental mix of it (posted over here) that runs for 4.5 minutes. 
  • The “Eyes” is very solid, end-to-end, and quite compact.
  • Weir’s guitar has a great, shimmery quality on some songs; check out “Sugaree.”
  • Jerry calls for “Space” to turn into “Here Comes Sunshine,” before it turns toward “Playin’” instead. Listen to the very end of “Space” for his plaintive suggestion.

Nut Hatch - February 1973: The First Three “Eyes of the World” Jams

mp3 compilation here 

43-minutes:

  • Eyes Jam #1 (2/9/73 Palo Alto, CA) (10:22)
  • Eyes Jam #2 (2/15/73 Madison, WI) (9:33)
  • Eyes Jam #3 (2/19/73 Chicago, IL) (12:22)
  • Eyes Jam 2006 (11/8/06 Lesh & Friends recreation) (10:24)

I wish I could take this further, but I don’t have soft copies of the fourth, fifth, or sixth “Eyes.” “Dick’s Picks” #28 picks up the story after that.

The Grateful Dead debuted a whopping seven new Garcia tunes at their first show in 1973, one of them being “Eyes of the World.” 

Obviously, there had been some serious band work between the 1972 New Year’s Eve show and the first 1973 show, such that all these numbers were, more or less, ready to go, and “Here Comes Sunshine” had its whole jam sequence worked out in advance. 

However, the soon-to-be trademark ’73-’74 “Eyes” jam had not been worked out in advance, although the band was clearly determined to make it a jam from the get-go, and the key ideas are already lurking in the first live performance. 

Once it did get worked out, the song’s jam tended to progress through several, fairly predictable stages, until it reached a series of (usually three) synchronized riffs. Sometimes, after those riffs, the band would jam on for a while; more often, they would rapidly dwindle to a transition to a new song.

That jam is under construction across these initial three “Eyes” jams, which are at the same time unlike the “Eyes” jams to come, more wide-open and questing, as you’d expect. 

It’s hard for me to say whether this sounds more like 1972 Dead playing 1973 changes or 1974 Dead going into unexpected, noodle places with a 1973 theme. In reality, it’s the Dead at the dawn of 1973, having fun in a brand-new sandbox that they’re eager to explore – the highest praise I can give this stuff. 

It is impossible for me not to think about the eruptions of “Slipknot” into the band’s 1974 jamming (compiled here) when listening to this evolution of the “Eyes” jam. They are so similar, ultimately, as focused knots of this era’s Dead sensibilities. 

I haven’t figured out the precise origins of the "Eyes" jam's synchronized riff in this material, but it seems like a Garcia idea that Lesh decided to formalize into something discrete and dynamic. Garcia threw it out and meandered through it, while Lesh thought it was pounce-worthy. I'm probably wrong, but the audio evidence is here for you to assess yourself. 

I have added to this compilation what I think is a rather remarkable 2006 appendix to the history of the 1973-1974 “Eyes” jam, and a fine bookend to these early “Eyes” jam explorations. In 2005 or 2006, Lesh invited people to apply to “Phil Lesh University.” As I understand it, he selected two bands from the applicants, asked them what they wanted to play, rehearsed with them for a day, then played an unorthodox show, in which each band got a set. The Garcia figure in one of the bands, Ethan Franzel, wanted to play a 1973-1974 “Eyes,” and he ended up having to re-teach Phil the jam. (Understandable, I guess, since Phil probably hadn’t thought about it since 1974, while fans never forget.) This lucky guy, Franzel, also got to be Jerry for “Dark Star.” The whole improbable show is streamable here

In any case, at the other end of the invention of the “Eyes” jam, we get a remarkably tight recreation of the ultimate structure of that jam, some 30 years after the fact, featuring Lesh, who seems to me to have been the leader of that earlier structuring. 

Update: I contacted Franzel, who had this to say:  "Before the Phil show - maybe a month or two before, right after the bands were set - I spoke with the other guitarist in my set, Greg Fain. We knew when we spoke that it was going to work. Plus we fit into natural roles - I played lead when things were more "jammy" - that's why you hear me taking the lead on the Eyes jam and on Dark Star. We knew what tunes we were playing at that point, and Fain and I wanted to get together beforehand to run the tunes, figure out compatibility, etc. We discovered on the phone that we both - upon discussing the setlist with Phil (ha! That was a great phone conversation, just me and Phil talking about music and spirituality!!) - wanted to do the 73/4 Eyes jam. So we were simpatico from the start, and Phil was amenable. I sent out the chords and the structure to the other musicians so that they would be 100% ready for it when the time came to rehearse. When we actually did it live, the reaction was pretty much what you'd hope it would be - a bunch of Heads grooving on something that they hadn't heard Phil do in a really really long time. I remember telling Phil "that next chord is a C diminished." It was awesome to tell him the sequence! Of course, the first time we rehearsed the riff at the end, in 7/4 time, his fingers instinctively played the harmony part that, as far as I know, he hadn't played since 1974. It was probably the highlight of the whole event. Rehearsing that riff."

The Chicago audio comes directly from Dick Latvala, who sent the show’s second set to me with the note: “Hi John. Thanks for sending me that interchange w/Pig. I decided to record over it with something that is PRETTY NICE. – Dick”