The Skatalites, 1990, Church House Inn, Providence, RI
The real ska
"Can y’all welcome Branford Marsalis?" Bob Weir asks about halfway through the first set. Sure, why not. I don’t know exactly how this member of the Marsalis clan made it to the Dead’s Nassau Coliseum show, but hey, here he is! The first thing they play together is "Bird Song," which starts off kinda tentatively, but is in full flight by the jam section, with Garcia and Marsalis trading licks, ascending skywards. The saxophonist sticks around for most of the remainder of the show, perhaps kicking the Dead into a higher gear than usual. "Estimated Prophet" — despite Weir’s ridiculous bellowing — has some moments of truly inspired interplay. And "Eyes of the World" feels like a gentle breeze, as we reach the homestretch in the Summer of Dead live archive trip.
Choice cut: “Dark Star” into “Drums/Space” back into “Dark Star”! Totally freaky. The opening five minutes of “Dark Star” before Garcia’s first vocal is particularly nuts, with Jerry, Mydland and Marsalis skronking up a storm.