Buried beneath Jerry Garcia’s endless side projects, guest appearances and solo endeavors is the rarely mentioned Legion of Mary. The LOM lineup consisted of Merl Saunders, JGB bassist John Kahn, Martin Fierro on sax and flute along with Ronnie Tutt on drums (who replaced Paul Humphrey in early ’75). The band was short lived—lasting only from July of ’74 to July ’75—but during the time it lasted the Legion of Mary was a rare force, blending the sounds of jazz, rock and R&B with a touch of psychedelia.
To put things in context, Legion of Mary was in action during a rare downtime in the Dead’s career. Following the famous October 1974 performances by the Dead at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco (immortalized in The Grateful Dead Movie), the band went on a short hiatus, performing only 4 concerts together in 1975. During the hiatus, Jerry worked on the movie relentlessly while also recording Blues for Allah and performing around the Bay Area with Legion of Mary.
The LOM shows contain some of Jerry’s finest playing in the form of long, jazz-inspired improvisations that are stunningly beautiful. Also, a number of these shows were captured by the legendary taping team of Badbob Menke and Louis Falanga who would famously get their mics on stage with the band (literally). There was only one official release by LOM in the form of Legion of Mary: The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 1, but if you seek them out there are some amazing audience recordings that I highly recommend.
I’ll help you begin your search with my personal favorite LOM show recorded by the Menke/Falanga taping team. This one comes from the Keystone in Berkeley, CA on 5.22.75 and features one of my all-time favorite jazz numbers, Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” (also recorded by Milt Jackson, which I also highly recommend). If you like audience recordings, you’ll want to check this one out.
“Little Sunflower” (5.22.75)
DOWNLOAD: Legion of Mary 1975-05-22 Keystone, Berkeley, CA [Torrent]
Source: (FOB) Sony ECM-270 and ECM-250 [Positioned Onstage] > Sony TC-152 > MAC
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