Theme from Summer of ’73 – “The Phil Jazz Jam”

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.” (Update: The "Pacific Northwest, 1973-1974" official release includes three summer '73 shows.)

“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. 

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.

Cover art by M. DeNoor 

12 responses
This one is excellent, thanks. It would be fun to get more specific jam-centric compilations like this. ...I googled "robert hunter 1972" today, this painter popped up, and I immediately thought "That looks like a Hilgart-esque cover" so here's a link for you if you're interested. ...Anyway, thank you for your service, as ever!
Alec, you nailed my aesthetic with that Robert (the other one) Hunter art. I'm going to use that and another of his for some Texas '72 shows I've been working on - so thanks! I haven't investigated a mega-mix of early '70s "Spanish Jams," or "Mind Left Body Jams." I wonder if they would be fun or repetitive? However, I have been noodling around with a mix that focuses on early "Shakedown" jamming - Keith era, August 1978-Feburary 1979 - some kind of combination of versions of the instrumental break, the closing jams, and some of the "just gotta poke around" vocal sections.
Would love to see / hear a Spanish Jam comp! ...For posterity and future visitors, I wrote up a list of all-ish the times they played this jam.
Alec, thanks for that write-up. I need to chase down the versions I've never heard! I wonder if "Spanish Jam" would be as fun, or if it would seem too repetitious. It would definitely be interesting to line up stand-out versions from different years, chronologically, to listen to it mutate.
I'm doing a similar write up about Mind Left Body for the 73-10-19 anniversary. That would be fun to hear one of your edits of. ...Also, for and again for posterity, I moronically missed DeadEssay's post about the Phil Jam (from last June). I just found it today, and, whew. Lots more versions to hear after all. Maybe I shouldn't bother with Mind Left Body, and just wait for him to get around to it! The dude is a encyclopedic *and* has taken up paragraph breaks.
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