Phish and Jazz
Phish’s early years are noticeably marked with a heavy jazz influence. Like going to a Vaudeville performance, Phish would treat its audience to a wide variety of music laced with gags and narratives. Going from Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” to Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” made for a very unique experience. Through the late 80′s and into the early 90′s Phish explored jazz, and adapted a great deal of the genre into their own music.
Phish’s jazz influence can be traced back to the 80′s when Jon and Trey were living in a house in Winooski, VT. Around the corner, the club Sneakers would have jazz on Tuesday nights featuring local musicians James Harvey, Dave Grippo, Russ Remington, Carl Geirhardt who would later play with Phish as the Giant Country Horns. The relationship grew, and Phish would eventually start backing up a horn section as the Johnny B. Fishman Jazz Ensemble. These weekly gigs took place at the Drenched Cat in Burlington throughout ’88.
Incorporating the songs from their jazz sets into their Phish sets, the band became increasingly jazzy, with Trey altering his tone to suit their new style. Songs such as “Take the A-Train”, “Caravan” and “Satin Doll” by Duke Ellington, as well as “Donna Lee” by Charlie Parker all made regular appearances in Phish sets until ’93. As the band became familiar from these standards, they would improvise on them with a jazzy style. As the years went on, the jazz and rock jams began to meld into one combined style that carried through the entire set. Eventually, a style known as ‘speed-jazz’ was developed, and can be heard in shows from ’91 to ’93.
Here are some of the best jazz covers Phish has done (click the song name to download):
“Phase Dance” (Pat Metheny) from 1987.9.27 ATO Living Room, Canton, NY
“Jump Monk” (Charles Mingus) from 1988.3.12 Nectar’s, Burlington, VT
“Caravan” (Duke Ellington) from 1991.7.15 The Academy, New York, NY (the song starts at 1:00 after some Trey talk)
“Take the ‘A’ Train” (Duke Ellington) from 1992.3.14 Roseland Ballroom, New York, NY
“Satin Doll” (Duke Ellington) from1989.3.30 The Front, Burlington, VT