The Phil Lesh Quintet: The Planet Jams (June-July, 2001)

Over the course of a summer month in 2001, the Q played seven Lesh-composed instrumentals known as “The Planet Jams.” Each was performed only once.

On the phantasytour.com site, user Brinkdeers30 posted the following:

I interviewed Barraco a few years back and asked him about the Planet Jams Tour. This is what he said..

“Phil got this idea to honor the seven ancient planets. He wrote all of this incredible music and we decided to hire this guy, John Dwork, and have him have a vision of what this could be. Every show we were going to do one of these pieces that would be a special honoring and it would involve the audience and take place during the whole day. It was supposed to be this spectacular tour and somehow it imploded. What we were left with was this big circle Candace Brightman had built, you see them at dead shows... it's like a canvas with lighting.

Each day, we would come out on stage and see a symbol for one of the planets and we knew, that day we would be playing that specific music. But nobody in the audience was hip to what the f*** was going on. We were playing this crazy music but (the audience) didn't understand. In a way, I don't understand why we went through the motions without actually making it happen. It was so bizarre, but the music Phil wrote... Jimmy has said it many times, he said, 'That was the coolest s*** Phil ever wrote.' It was very deep and every single tune was different and really cool.

Phil is a great composer, he really is. This was written music, we actually had to read that s***. Phil's not the most prolific composer, but think about the body of his work, it's pretty impressive. Just think about "Box of Rain" and "Unbroken Chain" alone.

All of the music was very heady and different, but from the audience perspective, they didn't know what was going on. But it was cool for us, we dug it.”

The objective for this mix was to extract these pieces as cleanly as possible from the music that directly flowed into and out of them. They were almost all tightly sandwiched – one of them in the middle of Viola Lee Blues. So, I found the best starting place I could for each and faded all of them. Thank you to the audience tapers for their beautiful work. I’m sorry my files do not contain the info to credit all of them.

The band:

  • Phil Lesh
  • Warren Haynes
  • Jimmy Herring
  • Rob Barraco
  • John Molo

73-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Intrada > (7/28)
  • Saturn (7/28)
  • Luna (6/30)
  • Mars (7/22)
  • Comes a Time jam > Venus (7/17)
  • Sun (7/20)
  • Jupiter (7/26)
  • Mercury (7/6)

This mix is a sequel to the Save Your Face “PLQ Jazz 1" mix.  Posted here. Streaming here. Thank you to Josh Klay for introducing me to The Planet Jams and serving up the perfect concept for volume 2 of the series. 

Cover art: “Round,” Amaranth Ehrenhalt, 1961.   PLQ Jazz logo: John Hilgart & Ben Powers

24 responses
This is really incredible! I never would have known about this project. Very cool music, very different mood to each track, some parts more simple and others very complex. Thanks for including the story about Phil's concept. I'm remembering photos I've seen where Phil is wearing a NASA shirt
Thanks for this. I remember hearing about this, but the recording didn't include the song names and I hit a dead end. Very interesting stuff.
Holy god these are so good and simply put l, they are some of the greatest pieces of rock and roll improv by one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Phil will eventually get the credit the Q is due but in the end it doesn’t matter. Those who know and those who, like my young ass self and friends and most importantly brothers, were so stoked to be a part of it at first and while we may have been a touch naïve as to what was transpiring, it ain’t so hard to tell now what we witnessed was a band hitting pinnacles for three years straight. Please stay healthy Phil for as long you can. Love everyone that was there and participating.
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