Jazz, The Dead & David Murray

Not many things put me at ease like listening to a Grateful Dead show from the mid 70’s, especially 1973 and 1977.  I listened to alot of live Dead tapes during my college years. So, when I get a chance to hear these shows now I’m reminded of a simpler time more void of stress and responsibility.  A time before cell phones, streaming audio and social networking.  A time of great friends, road trips and the search for the unknown.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an app on my Roku box called Dead Shows which allows you to stream a catalog of live Dead performances on your TV that are sorted by year from Archive.org.  Just another reminder that the future has arrived. In some ways it’s almost TOO much accessibility.  But, it’s undoubtedly awesome and I’ve been listening to quite a few soundboard recordings including many that I’ve never heard.

The Grateful Dead’s sound was hugely influenced by jazz and the element of improvisation.  I once heard GD bassist Phil Lesh say that when they started out in the late 60’s, they wanted to do what Coltrane and Miles were doing but with Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Over the years, a few jazz musicians have collaborated with the Dead or with it’s members’ (mostly Jerry Garcia‘s) various side projects.  At a handful of shows scattered throughout the early 90’s, the Dead had featured guest saxophonists Ornette Coleman (2/23/93), David Murray (9/22/93 & 2/26/95), and Branford Marsalis (3/29/90 and 12/31/90).  You can read a great piece about the Jazz/Grateful Dead connection here.

In 1996, David Murray and his octet released an album of Dead covers entitled, Dark Star: The Music of The Grateful Dead on the Astor Place label.  I found out about this album only fairly recently and I’d like to hear it.  It seems pretty rare so if anybody would like to share it, let me know!  Murray’s take on a staple of the Dead’s live set from the aforementioned mid to late 70’s era, “Estimated Prophet” from his Dark Star album is posted above.


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