Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals; Merl Saunders - keyboards; John Kahn - bass; Bill Vitt - drums; Guests:; Sara Fulcher - vocals; Matt Kelly - harmonica; Roger "Jellyroll" Troy - bass, vocals; Martin Fierro - saxophone; Bill Atwood - trumpet
Following sets by Stoneground, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Mike Bloomfield & Friends, the Garcia-Saunders Band took the stage at Winterland. They invited several friends to sit in over the course of the show, making this one of the more unique performances by the group.
The recording begins with an original Saunders instrumental called "Finders Keepers." Here, Merl's dynamic keyboard playing and the punchy rhythms created by Kahn and Vitt create a funkfest that brings out a side to Garcia's playing few had heard before. Martin Fierro joins in at this point, adding freeform sax improvisations to the mix.
Reggae music was just beginning to penetrate the music world in 1973 and a lengthy exploration of Jimmy Cliff's classic "The Harder They Come" follows. Garcia was one of the first American musicians to fully embrace reggae and he would absorb its exotic rhythms like a sponge. He also handles the vocals here.
The highlight of the entire set is next as the ensemble tackles the jazz standard, "My Funny Valentine." This is absolutely infectious from beginning to end. Over the course of nearly 20 minutes, the ensemble floats along in a dreamy exploratory style. John Kahn's bass playing brings out lyrical magic from Garcia's guitar and Fierro's sax, neither of whom is at a loss for ideas. An unknown musician also joins in on trumpet during this number. It's an exquisite performance and the sheer joy in Garcia's playing is palpable. He rarely sounded sweeter or more comfortable than he does right here.
The set continues with a rollicking romp through "That's All Right Mama." Matt Kelly, future founder of the band Kingfish, blows harmonica on this number and Garcia, with the help of local singer Sara Fulcher, handles the vocals on this rockabilly classic. A delightful rendition of Smokey Robinson's "Second That Emotion" follows, which takes the three-minute Motown hit and cooks it up for well over ten minutes.
At this point, John Kahn exits and is replaced by Roger Troy, bass player and vocalist from Mike Bloomfield's band, who had performed earlier on the show. Troy leads the group into blues territory with "Sweet Little Angel," a tune he and Garcia had previously performed together during a stint in Howard Wales' band two years prior. Troy handles the vocals here, and it's obvious that all concerned are thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Finally, the Marvin Gaye classic "How Sweet It Is" closes the set on another joyous note. They say goodnight and inform the audience that Jorma and Jack (aka Hot Tuna) will be taking the stage next.
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