One of the most memorable and successful collaborations the Grateful Dead facilitated during their storied career was the welcoming of saxophonist Branford Marsalis to share the stage with the iconic band. The former The Tonight Show bandleader made his debut with the Dead at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on this date 26 years ago.
Holding the second show of three-night stand at the arena, Marsalis emerged for the penultimate song of the first set, augmenting a take on “Bird Song.” He then returned to sit-in for the entire second set, including the exquisite opening “Eyes Of The World” which was later issued on the 1990 live LP Without A Net and an exploratory performance of “Dark Star.” The entire performance was recently officially released by Rhino Records as Wake Up to Find Out.
Marsalis, who would go on to join the Dead a number of additional times, spoke with Rolling Stone in 2014 about the initial collaboration, telling the magazine:
I walked backstage and [bassist] Phil [Lesh] goes, “Hey, man, glad you could make it.” The rest of the guys were like, “We don’t know who you are, but it’s nice to meet you.” [Laughs] I came up for “Bird Song,” and after the set was over, I said, “Thanks for letting me play, guys.” And they’re like, ‘No, no, stay! Play the second half of the show. We’ll do ‘Dark Star.'”
That had no significance to me. I’m like, “‘Dark Star’? Okay. What is it?” “Oh, you’re gonna love it. It’s free, it’s out.” Great, I can play out.” [Laughs] They start playing that lick, and the audience goes fucking bananas. Later, I started getting these phone calls on my private number: “Man, you were great last night. Thanks for getting them to play ‘Dark Star’. They haven’t played it in six months.’ I’m like, “Who are these people?”
Below watch full show audience-shot video of the March 29, 1990 Grateful Dead show posted by Voodoonola2 followed by an embed of the official live release:
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