Branford Marsalis Guests With Grateful Dead At Madison Square Garden On This Date In 1991
Famed saxophonist Branford Marsalis was the Grateful Dead‘s special guest at Madison Square Garden in New York City on this date in 1991. Marsalis augmented the septet for the entire concert at The Garden, marking his third appearance with the Grateful Dead.
The musical relationship between Branford and the Dead began about 30 miles away from MSG on March 29, 1990, when Marsalis first sat-in with the band. Branford then joined the group for their second set on New Year’s Eve 1990 at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.
Fans at The Garden went wild when the band emerged with Branford Marsalis on September 10, 1991 as they first took the stage. The interplay between Branford, guitarist Jerry Garcia and pianist Bruce Hornsby was impressive right from the start of the “Shakedown Street” opener. From there, the ensemble presented covers of “C.C. Rider” and “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” before emotion-laden versions of “Black Throated Wind” and “High Time” led by Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia, respectively. Branford expertly fit soprano sax parts into “Black Throated Wind” and used a tenor perfectly to accent “High Time.”
Next up was “Cassidy,” which saw Branford help the band build the jam to a glorious peak. A riotous “Deal” then ended the set complete with a call-and-response segment between Marsalis and Hornsby.
The second set featured a dream setlist to the delight of the capacity crowd. A 24-minute run of “Help On The Way” into “Slipknot!” into “Franklin’s Tower” kicked off the frame. Garcia was all smiles as the ensemble lit into “Franklin’s Tower” and belted out the lyrics to the classic song. Weir then led the group on a nicely extended “Estimated Prophet.” A spacey interlude at the end of “Estimated” bled into the first notes of “Dark Star,” which was split by the evening’s “Drums”/”Space” pairing.
Marsalis was once again on soprano sax for “Dark Star” and the open format of the song served the jazz musician nicely. A quick romp through “I Need A Miracle” came next and then the Dead and Marsalis delivered a beautiful rendition of the ballad “Standing On The Moon.” Branford took a gorgeous solo in “Standing On The Moon” before the final verse. The saxophonist also shined on a set-closing “Turn On Your Love Light.” For the encore, the Dead and their guest treated fans to a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.”
Watch video of the Dead’s entire September 10, 1991 show below via the JamBase Live Video Archive: