20 Years Later: TAB’s ‘Octet’ formation Rolls through Jones Beach and SPAC

2001 was a formative year for the relatively new Trey Anastasio Band (TAB). Since sprouting roots a few years earlier, the band had already grown from a three-piece to a six-piece ensemble. Co-founders Tony Markellis (bass) and Russ Lawton (drums), along with Trey, were supplemented with the addition of a horn section consisting of Dave Grippo (saxophone), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet) and Andy Moroz (trombone) for a short tour earlier in the year.

Come summer, the TAB outfit would add two more full-time members, rounding into an official octet. Another Giant Country Horn, Russel Remington (saxophone/flute) was added to the fray along with Ray Paczkowski, who still mans the keyboards for the band today. The addition of Paczkowski and a keyboard rig to the lineup was a clear game changer, bringing an extra layer of sound and funk that would seem irreplaceable today. Summer of 2001 would be the first time the TAB ‘Octet’ would hit the road, one that included a pair of choice NY gigs that helped close out the tour.

August 3, 2001 Jones Beach

Trey wastes no time getting this show up and running, with the wah pedal at the ready for a bouncy “Burlap Sack and Pumps” opener. It also features an extended saxophone solo from Dave “The Truth” Grippo that helps fuel the high intensity start. The crux of the first set is a 20-minute “Last Tube” that gets smoothed out nicely after some early feedback issues. Everyone gets a turn to solo on this one in a jam that slowly but steadily picks up steam throughout. Jennifer Hartswick’s enchanting harmonies shine through on “Flock of Words” before “Cayman Review,” a song that debuted only weeks ago, picks things back up. This early version is played a step or two slower than its contemporary one, but the funk is still very much evident, showing why it’s remained a staple of TAB setlists. A spirited “Moesha” later caps off a first set that, with the exception of “Words,” never comes to a full stop.

Much like “Last Tube” in the first, TAB’s second set at Jones Beach is heavily influenced by one song. “Money, Love and Change,” another new to TAB song only debuted a handful of shows ago, opens the set and doesn’t let up until well after 25 minutes later. The opening composed section sounds a little shaky as one would expect for a new song, but soon another Tony Markellis-led groove heaps fuel onto the improvisational fire and the jam is off and running. After a brief Trey/Ray duel on guitar and keys, the main theme re-emerges briefly but instead of coming to a close, the horn section leads a direct charge into “Plasma,” cementing a powerhouse start to this set. Newcomer Russ Remington shines when given the chance to lead the way on flute for a little while. Afterwards, Trey makes note of the venue’s new upper level of seats that wasn’t there the last time her played Jones Beach before launching into a scorching “Mr. Completely.”

sticker via PhanArt

After closing the second set with “Sand,” the tangible Phish vibe only grew stronger as bassist Mike Gordon came out and joined Trey for a three-song acoustic encore. With Phish still in the midst of their first self-imposed hiatus at this time, this helped to quell any unfounded rumors of the band’s early demise. The “internationally acclaimed movie director” (Gordon had recently released Outside Out) showed off his versatility and joined Trey on acoustic guitar for “Back on the Train” before switching back to bass and closing out the evening with a “Bathtub Gin” that had large swaths of the Jones Beach crown clapping and/or singing along at various points.

Take a listen to the full show here.

Trey Anastasio Band – Jones Beach Amphitheater – Wantagh, NY 8/3/01

Set 1: Burlap Sack and Pumps, Acting the Devil, Last Tube, Flock of Words, Cayman Review, Sidewalks of San Francisco, Moesha

Set 2: Money, Love and Change -> Plasma, Mr. Completely, At the Gazebo, Sand

Encore: Mountains in the Mist, Back on the Train, Bathtub Gin

Mike Gordon sat in for entire encore.

August 5, 2001 SPAC

After a quick dip into Massachusetts on August 4 for a gig at the Tweeter Center, TAB was back in NY two days later for the tour closer, this time Upstate and visiting another old friend, SPAC. With this still very much being the “early days,” a lot of the song pairings and sequences that were seen in Jones Beach would reappear here as the band’s musical repertoire was nowhere near where it is today. But much like snowflakes, no two TAB shows are completely alike.

The band drops “Last Tube” right away this evening as the opener. While it doesn’t quite reach the range of the Jones Beach version, it serves as more than an apt opener that has the band in peak form early and the Saratoga Springs crowd up and dancing immediately. Another sterling solo from Grippo and a rousing peak led by Anastasio again highlight this one. Then it’s right back into the still fledged “Cayman Review,” with Pazckowski moving nimbly between both the clav and organ. “Burlap Sack and Pumps” rounds out the opening trio, enabled by a pulsating Tony Markellis bass line that doesn’t quit. Although the order differed, the only new song in tonight’s first set from two nights prior is the calypso-infused “Alive Again” that appears later in the set, another (now) classic TAB song that was only first played earlier this summer.

Greg Haymes’ Times Union recap of TAB at SPAC

The second set at SPAC has a familiar start but does finally begin to offer a little variety. At this point of the tour, it’s evident that Trey knows which songs are the heavy hitters. Thus, the second stanza begins with a return to “Money, Love and Change.” Once more, it doesn’t quite reach the depths of the Jones Beach version, but Trey still uses the groove-filled jam that ensues as a vehicle to transition right into “Plasma” again.

The setlist then starts to offer a little variety, starting with an exquisite take on the TAB original “Drifting” where the harmony between Anastasio and Hartswick again reigns supreme. Another familiar tune to the Phish faithful emerges after this as the band doubles up on “tubes” for the evening and drops a pulsating mid-set “First Tube.” One of the gems of the entire show is TAB’s take on the soul classic “Ooh Child,” a rare polished cover that dates all the way back to the days of the original trio.

The show, and tour, is closed out in proper fashion with a set-ending “Push On ‘Til the Day” that follows along in the early TAB tradition of locking into an early groove supplied by the rhythm section of Markellis and Lawton and then expanding from there. With the entire horn section locked in as well, it’s a joyous sendoff and a fitting set closer. The instrumental “Mozambique” serves as as the encore, wrapping up a successful tour and two nights in NY for TAB.

You can listen to the full show here.

Trey Anastasio Band Saratoga Performing Arts Center – Saratoga Springs, NY 8/5/01

Set 1: Last Tube, Cayman Review, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Flock of Words, Alive Again, Moesha

Set 2: Money Love and Change -> Plasma, Drifting, First Tube > Every Story Ends in Stone, At the Barbecue, O-o-h Child, Push On ‘Til the Day

Encore: Mozambique

dave grippoJennifer HartswickJones BeachMike GordonRay PaczkowskiRuss LawtonSPACTABtony markellisTrey Anastasio