There are several good shows - just check out the ones from ’72 and ’74 - from this day in Dead history. But for our Dead of the Day we have to go out to Madison Square Garden in 1991 for Branford Marsalis’s third time sitting in with the band. From the very first sounds - Branford’s noodling - you know that you are in for a really special treat on this evening. And just a few seconds later, the entire band goes into a funky Shakedown with just a little jazz sound as Bruce’s keys and Branford’s sax add another dimension altogether. A song later, Bruce helps make It Takes A Train To Cry an all-time version with his awesome runs. But it should be clear that the entire band was totally amped up on this night, playing some amazing music. Cassidy is also a really nice piece with the addition of the piano and saxophone. After that, a no holds barred, rocking Deal takes it into the break in high fashion. Help> Slip> Franklin’s opens the second set, and what an opening it is. The Help On The Way and Slipknot! both have that ethereal goodness, given additional substance by Branford’s sax. But the Franklin’s Tower is a beast of another order, rich and luscious in its bright and rounded jams, making for a spacious, transcendent soundspace with some lovely vocal harmonies. The Estimated that follows right on Franklin’s heels is towering and sublime, eventually leading into a Dark Star, which is quite good. Then we get Drums and a Dark Star reprise, which includes so much inimitable jazzy space over its twelve or so minutes. A Miracle rises out of all that jamming so quickly and unexpectedly that it is downright thrilling, and the rest of the tune is hot too with Bobby killing the vocals and the boys playing so well with Branford’s sweet sound adding some elegance. Then we get another highlight in Standing On The Moon with Jerry, Branford, and Bruce making it truly magical. This show might be the least of Branford’s first three visits with the Dead, but, regardless, the night is incredible on its own merits.
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York