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.