Watch Tony Markellis Perform With Kilimanjaro & Big Joe Burrell In 1990

By Andy Kahn May 6, 2021 9:30 am PDT

Beloved Trey Anastasio Band bassist Tony Markellis sadly died last week at the age of 68. While perhaps best known for his association with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, prior to their first collaboration in 1998, Markellis had amassed a lengthy and successful resume as a bassist and producer.

On a number of occasions, Anastasio has told the story of seeing Markellis performing live on his first night in Vermont. One of those instances came in 2012 when Phish played a show in Saratoga Springs, New York, where Markellis was a resident since 1975. While bringing Tony out to sit-in “Gotta Jibboo” — which Markellis co-wrote — during the band’s June 20, 2010 show at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Anastasio spoke to the audience, stating:

“The first time I ever went and visited Vermont. The first night I got there I went out and went dancing to a band called Big Joe Burrell and The Unknown Blues Band. Some of you have obviously heard them. And the man standing next to me was playing the bass. He became one of my dearest friends, and one of our dearest friends. Played at my wedding. And plays in the TAB band with me.”

Trey posted a photo taken at his wedding on August 13, 1994, with Tony and Big Joe Burrell in the background. Anastasio wrote a heartfelt remembrance of his bandmate of over two decades, describing the many ways Markellis was loved.

Markellis and other members of The Unknown Blues Band were also part of the Vermont-based jazz group Kilimanjaro. In June 1999, Vermont PBS aired a live performance by Kilimanjaro that featured several special guests, including Big Joe Burrell.

Kilimanjaro consisted of Markellis on bass, Chas Eller on keyboard, Paul Asbell on guitar, Harry Thompson on drums and Stuart Paton on percussion. The PBS performance also featured saxophonists Russ Remington and Dave Grippo a year before they would tour with Phish as members of the Giant Country Horns. Grippo and Remington would also serve time alongside Markellis as members of TAB.

Burrell joined near the end of the concert singing and playing saxophone on covers of Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got News for You” with (vocalist Kip Meaker singing lead) and B. B King’s “Everyday I Have the Blues.” The set ended with Kilimanjaro covering Sonny Rollins’ classic “St. Thomas.”

The session began with Kilimanjaro playing a few originals, including an at-the-time-unnamed new song. Watch Tony Markellis performing live with Kilimanjaro in 1990 below:


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Vermont PBS
Kilimanjaro
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