McMurray’s version of the Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter-penned track, sung by LaVette with Weir on guitar, also features assistance from Wolf Bros., the Weir-led group featuring Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, Greg Leisz, and Don Was. McMurray and Was were bandmates in Was (Not Was), with Was — in his role as president of Blue Note — set to release Grateful Deadication through that label on July 16th.
As McMurray explained in a statement, his dive into the Grateful Dead songbook isn’t the result of a decades-long fandom. “The funny thing is, I’m not a longtime fan,” McMurray said. “I knew their hits. I remember seeing the video for ‘Touch of Grey’ and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s quirky.’ But I knew nothing about the Grateful Dead. I was confused that they had such a following, with fans actually following the band from city to city. I was like, ‘What are these people seeing?’ I just didn’t get it.”
It wasn’t until the 2018 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, where McMurray — who has worked with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Iggy Pop — joined Wolf Bros onstage to cover the Dead’s “Days Between” that his exploration into the legendary jam band began.
“The long-form, odd measures, and complex chords of the music hooked me immediately. I noticed the songs had great melodies, yet held the openness of Miles Davis’ Electric Period. The music was catchy, psychedelic, raw, with the idea that nobody solos/everybody solos — akin to Weather Report. The more I listened, the more I knew these songs would eventually become a vehicle for my jazz expression,” McMurray added.
Grateful Deadication features the saxophonist’s take on 10 Dead classics, including versions of “Touch of Grey.” The album arrives July 16th via Blue Note.
Grateful Deadication Tracklist
1. Fire on the Mountain
2. Dark Star
3. Loser (featuring Bettye LaVette, Bob Weir, and Wolf Bros)
4. Estimated Prophet
5. Eyes of the World
6. The Eleven
7. Touch of Grey (feat. Herschel Boone)
8. Touch of Grey (Instrumental)
9. Franklin’s Tower
10. The Music Never Stopped