Live from Here welcomes New York’s Phinest

As Live From Here continues its fall run from their new home at The Town Hall in New York City, fans were treated to another glorious episode (with slightly more than the usual phanfare) due to one particular name on the guest list. Being a live air show with a strictly dicatated schedule, 6:00:00 PM sharp brought on the opening notes of “Fugue State,” a Vulfpeck tune in its second year as the LFH theme song. After a mulit-faceted and highly layered “C Q,” this week’s song of the week (yes, Chris Thile writes a song every week!), which sounded somewhat like a venue appropriate mini Broadway musical, Thile announced this week’s first guest.

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Trey Anastasio entered to thunderous applause as there were many Phish fans in attendance who probably saw their first and only episode of LFH last night. “Theme From the Bottom” was Trey’s first offering, rearranged to play alongside the house band of Chris Thile (mandolin), Mike Elizondo (musical director/bassist), Chris “Critter” Eldridge (guitar), Kush Abadey (drums), Brett Williams (keys), Brittany Haas (fiddle) and guest Sarah Jarosz (vocals, banjo, mandolin, guitar). “If I Could” was Trey’s next choice, and if you didn’t know better you might think it was a duet written specifically for he and Sarah Jarosz. Trey really opened up a beautifully composed solo for this one, his tone so clean as he played out of a very stripped down set up and not his usual Phish rig. 

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Tom Papa left the audience in stitches with his Out in America segment, followed by a jazzy house band number and then Sarah Jarosz covering Joanna Newsom’s “Book of Right-On.” Edward Norton was next up, explaining how he got hooked up with Thom Yorke and guest Wynton Marsalis for music for his new movie premiering November 1, Motherless Brooklyn, a 1999 book by Jonanthan Lethem from which he read like the world class actor that he is. 

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The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis quietly assembled on stage during Ed Norton’s segment and wowed the crowd with two numbers, the second of which saw them joined by Chris Thile. Fifteen members strong with twelve horns, an upright bass, baby grand piano and drums, Wynton immediately distinguished himself from the rest of the similarly clad ensemble, treating the room full of Phish phans to a heavy dose of culture from one of New York’s finest professional jazz outfits.
The birthday segment was next, where Thile recognizes musician’s birthdays and plays their songs. Sarah Jarosz shined bright again and showed off her range during a cover of Natalie Maines “Cowboy Take Me Away,” followed by Fela Kuti’s resounding protest song “Zombie” and Sweeney Todd’s “A Little Priest,” a nod to Miss Lovett and Angela Lansbury’s birthday. One more birthday for this segment and another opportunity to introduce Trey Anastasio, who quipped, “Everyone who’s ever strapped on a guitar owes a little to Chuck Berry,” before covering “Back in the USA,” again sounding so clean on his minimalist rig.

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Before Trey’s next selection, Thile asked him just how he chooses only four songs from the mighty catalog at his disposal, “You know, I play in a band that goes on stage without a setlist so a lot of it is just feel and the vibe from…you people {pointing to the audience}. This is just a song I like a lot right now,” as he launched into a chilling “Life Beyond a Dream,” which was a perfect song choice for the setting.

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Dulce Sloan was next with an outstanding set of stand up comedy as she opened with, “I can’t believe I’m gonna do stand up after the chillest song I’ve ever heard,” and, “did you notice the only black people here are me and the drummer?” A trio of fiddle songs featuring Britanny Haas was next before Tom Papa had a belly-laughing, eyes-tearing reading about parenting. “I used to listen to Phish,” he quipped, “now I do it quietly…in the bathroom.”

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The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra played another mind-boggling number (best music city in the world, anyone?), again highlighted by Mr. Marsalis though his company of professional musicians was almost equally impressive, and was soon joined by phan favorite Trey Anastasio, now set up stage left in front of the orchestra, for what would be the On-Air finale of “Blaze On.” Watching these musicians watch and marvel at each other, Thile and Trey at Wynton, Wynton at Trey, along with Thile’s endearing and wild gesticulations, just drove home the fact that the Live From Here faithful (and a roomful of LFH first timers) were treated to something special last night. A final off-air performance of Lester Flatts’ “I’m gonna sleep with one eye open,” with the audience on their feet sent everyone home reeling. 

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The crowd was grateful for the intimate performance, and that New York City is the new home of LFH, along with Trey, Winton, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Just another ho-hum night in New York of world class music and collaborations.