Summer ’91 and The Giant Country Horns

Arrowhead Ranch July 1991

Arrowhead Ranch w/ GCH July 1991

If we were to travel back 18 years in time this week, we would find ourselves in July of 1991, right in the middle of Phish’s famous summer tour with The Giant Country Horns.  Spanning only sixteen shows, Phish took local musicians Dave Grippo (alto sax), Russell Remington (tenor sax), and Carl Gerhard (trumpet) on the road for what was an exciting and musically divergent few weeks.

phish-summertour-91Taking their moniker from Giant Country White Bread, a brand of bread from New Hampshire, The Giant Country Horns were born.  Spicing up many standard compositions with horn arrangements that sounded completely natural- like they were meant to be there- the horns gave songs like “Gumbo,” “Cavern,” and “Suzy Greenberg” new life for this summer run.  In more open improvisational pieces, like “Tweezer,” “Mike’s” and “Stash,” the horn ensemble lent a darker feel of fusion to the jams, enhancing the band’s interplay and adding another layer on top of the textured jams.  This well-loved tour of early-era Phish started in their home town of Burlington, and culminated at Amy Skelton’s Farm in Auburn, ME for what would be the earliest foreshadowing of the Phish festival.

In addition to enhancing songs already in the band’s rotation, the addition of The Giant Country Horns also allowed Phish to break out some jazz tunes that had been shelved such as “Caravan” and “Flat Fee,” some new covers in The Doors’ “Touch Me” and Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooch,” and breakouts like “Frankenstein.”  The horn lineup certainly lent a jazzier feel to Phish’s early music, which was rooted in jazz tradition, itself.

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (M. Gordon)

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (M. Gordon)

Largely contained to the Northeast corridor, Phish’s 1991 Horns Tour did stretch all the way to Atlanta during a four-show southern dip between the festival-like weekends at Arrowhead Ranch in Parksville, NY and their finale at Amy’s Farm.  Though the members of The Giant County Horns would reappear in various incarnations come 1994 and beyond, it was this sixteen-show collaboration that was the central focus of Phish’s experiments with their horn section.

With Grippo, Remington, and Gerhard on the bus for the tour, the band’s onstage dynamic took new form.  Trey and the horns played off of each other dynamically, and the band, as a whole, took on a new sonic shape for these shows.  Often adding rhythmic lines as well as complementary lead melodies and psychedelic backdrops, the horns brought a whole new element to Phish’s music.  Trained in the jazz tradition, Phish easily blended with their guests, playing off of their musical ideas amidst jams as well allowing space for their composed accompaniment.  What resulted over the abbreviated tour was some of the most memorable music of Phish’s early years.

Phish Update - Summer 1991

Phish Update - Summer 1991

The Giant Country Horns appeared as a six-piece ensemble with Phish for a couple more shows in 1994 at Burlington’s Flynn Theatre (4.4) and New York’s Beacon Theater (4.15), and the band periodically featured different horn lineups through the years.  The Cosmic Country Horns- a six-piece lineup led by New Orleans’ Michael Ray, included Grippo, Gerhard, and some of his own Cosmic Crewe- joined the band for a few shows in 1994.  This lineup gave the music a more free-jazz / Sun-Ra feel rather than the more classic swing style of accompaniment of The Giant Country Horns.  Additionally, individual members of both groups have appeared with Phish over the years, including their landmark Remain In Light performance in which Grippo and Cosmic trumpeter, Gary Gazaway, joined the band for their defining set.  Grippo and Russell Remington would go on to become integral members of Trey’s solo band in later years, and friendships between the musicians still exist.  Will we ever see the return of the horns-  who knows?  But just as always in this Phishy world- anything is possible.

Below is an all-SBD compilation of highlights from Summer ’91 with The Giant Country Horns.  Check it out to hear a wholly different vibe to our favorite band.

DOWNLOAD “MINER’S PICKS: GIANT COUNTRY HORNS ’91” < TORRENT

DOWNLOAD “MINER’S PICKS: GIANT COUNTRY HORNS ’91” < MEGAUP.

1. “The Landlady” 7.23 Washington, DC II

2. “Tweezer” 7.21 Arrowhead Ranch, NY II

3. “Cavern” 7.23 II

4. “Magilla” 7.14 Townshend, VT II

5. “Split Open and Melt” 7.14 II

6. “Bathtub Gin” 7.14 III

7,8. “Oh Kee Pa > Suzy” 7.23 I

9. “Stash” 7.15 New Music Seminar, NYC, NY

10. “AC/DC Bag” 7.21 II

11. “Flat Fee” 7.23 I

12,13. “Dinner and a Movie > Gumbo” 7.23 II

14. “Frankenstein” 7.15

15,16,17. “Mike’s > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” 7.21 I

18. “Contact” 7.11 Burlington, VT E

19. “Caravan” 7.15

20. “Touch Me” 7.21 E

21. “You Enjoy Myself” 7.20 Arrowhead Ranch, NY II

22. “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars” 7.14 E

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

Tweezer” 4.21.92 Eureka, CA SBD

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/01-Tweezer-SBD.mp3]

If you know this “Tweezer,” you love it, and if you don’t, take fifteen minutes of your time with some headphones and fall in love.  One of the most unique and sublime jams to come from the band’s amazing west coast run of Spring ’92, this “Tweezer” is musical nirvana- all surrounded by redwoods in Northern California.  This is an impeccable soundboard recording of one of my all- time favorite jams.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

7.14.91 Townshend Family Park, Townshend, VT SBD < TORRENT

7.14.91 Townshend Family Park, Townshend, VT, SBD < MEGAUP.

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (phish.com)

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (phish.com)

Here we have a three setter from the Summer of ’91, showcasing Phish and The Giant Country Horns in all their glory.  The horns joined the band for most of the second and third sets of this marathon show.  While the compilation gives you snapshots of the era, this is a portrait of the band during a very special tour.

I: Reba, Llama, The Squirming Coil, Golgi Apparatus, Guelah Papyrus, My Sweet One, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, The Sloth, I Didn’t Know, Possum

II: Suzy Greenberg, Caravan, The Divided Sky, Gumbo, Dinner and a Movie, Bouncing Around the Room, Split Open and Melt, Magilla, Cavern, Run Like an Antelope

III: AC/DC Bag, The Landlady, Esther, Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, HYHU > Touch Me, Harry Hood

E: Contact, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars

With The Giant Country Horns for most of set II and III

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“Golgi” 7.20.91 Arrowhead Ranch, Parksville, NY (partial)

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279 Responses to “Summer ’91 and The Giant Country Horns”

  1. notkuroda Says:

    ps, I know I’m talking out of my ass about the lottery but I’m just bitter

  2. guyforget Says:

    robear, check mail..

  3. Exree Hipp Says:

    thought you guys might enjoy this spectacularly bad interview:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hLiaWEt92Y

    jump to about 3 minutes in and see the band just straight up give up on seriousness

    there’s a part 2 on youtube to see as well.

  4. Exree Hipp Says:

    I have 4 for Chicago, section 116 available for face&fees.

    guselephant [at] yahoo.com

  5. will-I-am Says:

    the split you referenced is one of my favorites. the horns are sinister.

  6. Stupendous Says:

    Got my Gorge Tix Yesterday via UPS!!!

  7. SOAM Says:

    I feel for anyone who gets stiffed at the door-but things have a way of working out on tour

  8. T. Leo Says:

    Exree, I was just watching that and waiting for the second one to load when I decided to check this site. Ironic. The interview is Friggin Hilarious.

  9. Leo Weaver Says:

    @ type III…if you haven’t already, check out the Sweet Emotion from MIke and Leo’s 66 Steps…it’s low and slow, very appropriate with a nice cold beer on a warm summer evening in your favorite spot…

    And if you guys ever get the chance, go see Leo Kottke…I saw him a couple of years ago in a tiny theater, probably 500 seats total, only about half full. He’s quite a storyteller…in fact, if you don’t like his picking you’ll get your $$ worth just from his stories (which he tells over some smooth background playing).

  10. ColonelJoy Says:

    Back at the MWR…..

    I’m getting to Indio on the 29th…..planning it so I won’t have to provide Uncle S a Sample In A Jar for at least several weeks after the fest….

    Who’s in for a Sunrise Bake at Joshua Tree National Park on the 30th?

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Leo – Kottke’s stories are gut-bustingly hilarious and surreal…but if you don’t like his picking you’re nuts…he’s one of the best and most important acoustic guitar players in this history of the instrument

    @notkuroda – that sucks incredibly hard – I would totally be pissed too

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Leo, I love that one on 66 Steps. It was a fun one to play at parties and have people do an aural double take as they recognized the song.

    I’ve seen Leo solo a couple of times and I’m always impressed by his playing.

  13. ColonelJoy Says:

    Yes, Completely….Kottke was so groundbreaking….the link to Mike Hedges and Keller for sure….

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Colonel, yeah, and I greatly prefer his playing to either one (tho Keller is a great guy and is an old acquaintance)

    There are many great Kottke shows circulating online – I think his peak was the 80s and early 90s – well worth checking out

    you’d think as great a player as he is, you’d get annoyed at how long the stories are…you know, shut up and play yer guitar…but they’re just that funny, and his oddly cadenced delivery really sells it…I have seen him at least 6 or 7 times and heard twice that many shows and never heard the same story twice, incredible really

    what a weirdo, he really is like Mike’s long lost twin or something

  15. ColonelJoy Says:

    kottke’s first album, which came out in like 69′, was the first of it’s kind….the first virtuoso all acoustic guitar instrumental album that wasn’t a nylon string classical number…..

  16. ColonelJoy Says:

    Yet, I’ve never seen him:(

  17. EL Duderino Says:

    Clone!!!!

  18. whole tour! Says:

    the dude abides!

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    @El Dude, Clone indeed! never thought of that! They’re both such oddballs – it must have been really weird and cool for them to meet each other. I certainly would never have thought ANY bass player could find room to operate within Kottke’s barrage of notes, but Mike fits perfectly.

    @Colonel, yeah I guess that’s true isn’t it? I don’t really know the timeline with guys like him and John Fahey…though he’s a lot shreddier than Fahey…

    Whenever you go see him, pay for the seats where you can really see his hands. It’s jaw-dropping. Especially when he starts working the slide in, in between the fingerpicking and bizarro chords – it seems like he must have an invisible third hand or something. Crazy.

  20. Frankenstein Says:

    Clone indeed…I’ve always had a problem with my 66 steps cd. I ripped it to my media player, but playback has always been choppy so I have to use the actual cd. Same issue with DMBs Stand Up cd. I think it has somrthing to do with copyright protection, anyone else have the same issue?

  21. larry bird flu Says:

    col. glad your back!
    also @notkuroda that sucks about the ticket, and the shitty customer service. did you just try PTBM or the larger phish org.?

  22. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Mr. Completely We have about 15 days until the Gorge. I hope my girl and I can meet up with you, wife and son for a set or two? would be cool!

  23. Leo Weaver Says:

    yeah, I’ve compiled most of Leo’s albums by now…it’s all GREAT stuff. I used to crank it at work and all the music-haters would bitch about how loud I had it. And yeah, Mr. C, anyone who doesn’t like his playing should be banned from listening to music of any kind. Hell, my wife even likes him (and her musical taste is far from mine…and unfortuantely not nearly as “developed” as any of ours). I took her to the show and she had a great time…went on and on about it (and that was before she grew to really appreciate/enjoy him). Think I may have to spin a little Leo in the garden when I get home….

  24. voopa Says:

    LOL

  25. larry bird flu Says:

    this tweezer is very psychedelic.. and i like it.

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