Jeff Tanski Discusses Helping Trey Anastasio Prepare For ‘Fare Thee Well’

By Scott Bernstein Mar 17, 2016 1:19 pm PDT

When Phish frontman Trey Anastasio was enlisted to perform with members of the Grateful Dead at five Fare Thee Well – Celebrating 50 Years Of Grateful Dead performances in Chicago and Santa Clara last summer, the guitarist recruited Jeff Tanski to help him prep for the concerts. The Buffalo News spoke with the Tonawanda, New York native about his role in the historic concerts and his career for a new feature.

Tanski, whom Bob Weir referred to as “wunderkind of the Broadway world,” wrote charts for 70 Grateful Dead songs that Anastasio used to prepare for the shows. “The Grateful Dead thing came about because Trey mainly wanted someone to practice with,” Tanski told the Buffalo News’ Jeff Miers. “He was learning all the songs on his own, but realized that his practicing would be much more effective and fun with another person in the room. So when he asked if I wouldn’t mind learning 90 Grateful Dead songs so we could play them together, I jumped at the chance.”

Trey first worked with Tanski on orchestrations for Anastasio’s first foray on to Broadway, the Hands On A Hardbody musical. Anastasio was very impressed, “The first thing I noticed about Jeff was his positive attitude, combined with his innate musicality. Broadway shows are very tense by nature, and you run into a lot of people who will tell you why something can’t be done. Jeff doesn’t have anything near that outlook and that’s a very attractive quality in a collaborator.”

The guitarist had high praise for Tanski’s role in his prep for Fare Thee Well:

“It took a long time, because as you can imagine, each song takes quite a while if you really want to learn them well, not just in a cursory way; and I wanted to really inhabit them,” Anastasio said.

Anastasio blocked out a small studio in midtown Manhattan and worked with Tanski, eventually spending close to 150 hours rehearsing. Tanski said he needed to write an accurate chord chart for each song; Anastasio thought it was unnecessary.

“As soon as we started going, I saw that he was absolutely right, and that beyond being necessary, it was actually crucial and enormously helpful,” Anastasio said.

Trey feels Tanski’s role was so important, “I can honestly say that I never would’ve been able to pull the whole thing off without Jeff.” The 32-year-old keyboardist currently plays keyboards and leads the orchestra on the Broadway musical Beautiful. Head to the Buffalo Times for much more on Jeff Tanski. Phish kicks off Summer Tour at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 22.

[Hat Tip – Coltrane74]

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