Trey Anastasio Band Welcomes New Members at Westville Music Bowl

What a Sunday for a summer review in September. Trey Anastasio Band debuted their new lineup at Yale’s Westville Music Bowl in New Haven, CT.  During its brief history, TAB has continued to add members, starting as a trio and evolving into an octet. New bassist Dezron Douglas said, “I’ve been familiar with his work with Phish since high school; I’m from Hartford, CT, so you can’t grow up in New England and not know about Phish.”

Brooklyn saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum, filling in for James Casey, has worked with Aaron Neville, David Byrne and St Vincent, and collaborated with Soulive drummer Alan Evans. Cochemea is part of Brooklyn’s emerging afrobeat and soul scene and is a great fit with TAB drummer Russ Lawton and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski’s sound. Like Trey this summer with Phish, Soule Monde has been on the road supporting their new album Mimi Digs It, leading up to this East Coast TAB run. Insert Cyro Baptista’s full percussion sections and add Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman on horns and backing vocals and it’s a whole new groove. 

A 6:30pm start time at the Westville Music Bowl allowed the whole crowd to be visible from the stage. Trey commented, “This place is pretty cool, I can see all of you.” They kicked it off and suggested to the crowd “to roll with the funk now and turn it around” during “Set Your Soul Free.” “Olivia” stayed Latin-funky, from Trey’s Horseshoe Curve album. Rolling with the funk now, the band then took on Phish’s “Ghost.” That saw Ray P stretching out on the clavinet. More fitting for a new band lineup is new material to debut, including “And Flew Away” and “Never Left Home” from Anastasio’s Lonely Trip record. Jennifer Hartswick’s voice carries across the Long Island Sound like water on the breeze during “Night Speaks to a Woman.”

The second set opened with one of the funkiest recent TAB songs, “In Rounds,” another groove Ray Paczkoswki can dig in on his clavinet. The late Tony Markellis‘ infamous groove to “Sand” kept his spiritual funk present with the new ensemble, one that Russ Lawton told NYS Music was a staple “still in the setlist after 20 odd years.” The afrobeat to “Curlews Call” allowed new saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum to also stretch out on stage. The variety in TAB’s catalog opened up another portal during “Quantegy,” off One Man’s Trash.

Trey anastasio band westville
Photo by Scott Harris

As a full moon graced the stage, the band gave a nod to the skies and grooving audience that “we got the moon and stars above” in “Drifting.” Fans could hear the freeway calling as Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick provided amazing backing vocals on “Traveler.” The band closed with their infamous composition of exploration, “Mr. Completely.” Depending on the room, TAB has had made balconies shake since 2002 with this jam. The lyrics “Sunday morning shadows in the shade…” fit perfectly in the encore slot at the old Yale Tennis stadium with “Ether Sunday,” followed by the always welcome “First Tube” finale.

“First Tube” was played acoustically this year as tribute to Tony Markellis in Saratoga Springs, with Oysterhead at the Peach Fest and on Summer 2021 tour with Phish. It was appropriate for him to end the evening with this staple written by the original trio, to the new cast who can take it any direction on any given night.

The freedom in this music is that although it’s composed, there is room for every member to express themselves during the blended improvisational moments. Ray Packzkowski told NYS Music, “Yea it’s actually a beautiful thing,” regarding music in the moment that can’t be recreated: The band closes out this tour at the venerable Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan October 2 and 3. 

Trey Anastasio Band – Westville Music Bowl, New Haven, CT – September 19, 2021

Setlist via Phish.net

Soundcheck: Just A Touch, Evolve (this soundcheck may be incomplete)

Set 1: Set Your Soul Free, Olivia, …And Flew Away, Alive Again > Ghost, Liquid Time, I Never Left Home, Night Speaks to a Woman

Set 2: In Rounds, Camel Walk, Sand, Curlew’s Call > Quantegy > Drifting > Traveler > Mr. Completely

Encore: Ether Sunday, First Tube

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