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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The 1974 Garcia/Saunders instrumental previously listed as "Bags' Groove"

UPDATE 1/24/2015: Commenter Nick has determined that this is actually "Darben The Redd Foxx".

For fans of Jerry Garcia's pre-1975 excursions beyond the Grateful Dead, one of the great fun things is to hear Jerry trying on really unusual material, seemingly without much preparation. I think of the instrumental versions of "Day By Day" (from Godspell--previously misidentified as Jesus Christ, Superstar-- thanks to anonymous for the correction), the Motown "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and "Cucumber Slumber" as examples, but there are many others (and presumably more than we know based on circulating tapes).

Even more tantalizing is when there's a tune that "we" --i.e., the community of people who chronicle this stuff-- don't know. Sleuthing around and discovering the name and provenance of a mysterious jazz instrumental is a real challenge for someone as illiterate as me, but is also a lot of fun and is very rewarding when a previous unknown gets a designation.

I think we have a case of that here, though this is not 100% and should be further discussed.

The tune in question is the instrumental that appears on circulating recordings of Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders from the Lion's Share in San Anselmo on June 4, 1974, and the Keystone in Berkeley on June 6, 1974. I know of no other versions. The song has forever been listed at TJS as "Bags' Groove," but that is not what it is. I'd like to get more ears on the alternatives, so below I post (1) links to the Garcia/Saunders tunes; (2) hypothesized song titles, with links; (3) some existing analysis provided by folks more expert than me; and (4) a tentative conclusion.

(1) Here are links to the Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders versions:

June 4, 1974: [sorry, these are dead]

June 6, 1974: [sorry, these are dead]

(2) Here are the hypotheses we have in terms of what song this is:

H1: "Bag's Groove" (Milt Jackson) (listening link at top right)

H2: "The Crossing (Oubour)" (Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band), then down to the playlist for the track in question.

H3: "Ptah the El Daoud" (Alice Coltrane),+the+El+Daoud (listening link at top right). This was first identified by nick in an email to the Jerry Site.

(3) analyses

Santos L. Halper from DNC first proposed H2. When I suggested I didn't think that was it, he replied thusly:

after a few more listens, I agree with your assessment. The Crossing and the theme from 6.4/6.6 jam aren't exactly the same, though the middle phrase is so similar that I was thinking that the G/S version could be a simplified arrangement. But the G/S version certainly lacks the second half of the head from The Crossing.

And actually, having finally tracked down a copy of Ptah last night, it also sounds very similar to the 6.4/6.6 jam, though once again, the G/S verions lack the second half of the head where the melody is resolved into deep held notes. But something by Alice Coltrane seems more likely to have been in one of their record collections at the time.

Making things even more complicated, the two Garcia/Saunders versions also take different approaches compared to each other, with the 6.4 version played as straight ahead jazz with a walking bassline and the 6.6 version played more as a march with a simpler thumping bassline.

DNCer Blacula weighed in with this:

In listening to the two sound clips you provided against 6/4/74, it is my opinion that this is the head of Ptah, The El Daoud that has been stuck on a standard I-IV-V progression. It is also in a different key.

The middle (solo) section is different, but that is like comparing two versions of Dark Star (or Don't Let Go). They both have an identifiable theme which then progresses to the solo (jam) section. The theme is typically restated at some point near the end.

The track by Salah Regab is surprisingly similar at the head, but is not the theme from 6/4/74.

Then we had a little Q&A, Qs by me and As by Blac:

Q: What does "the head" mean? I assume it's just the start, but does it have a more precise meaning than that?

A: Basically it is the theme. It is performed at the "head" of the tune, and is a basis to launch off from. There may be a more specific definition, but this is how I've always understood it.

Q: Explain for a musical ignoramous?

A: The "I" is the root, usually the key of the song. The "IV" is a musical fourth which describes the interval between the root and this note. The "V" being the fifth.

Basically in layman's terms, this means a blues progression.

Q: So, would it be most accurate to call this "Ptah, the El Daoud"? How would you refer to this?

A: That was/is a tough call. If the head is the same, but the underlying chord progression is not, can it still be called Ptah?

I say yes, if you consider that it is likely derived from Ptah and extrapolated from there.

It could be called a Ptah jam, but to my ears there is a stating of the theme, a jam/solo section, and the theme is stated again before the end of the song. My contention is that this is a complete performance of Ptah, even though it has been slightly adapted. You'll notice that the Alice Coltrane version does not restate the theme before the end of the song.

(4) tentative conclusion

I tentatively conclude that we should be calling this tune "Ptah, the El Daoud" in our Garcia setlists. Thoughts/reactions/etc. most welcomed!


  1. Day By Day was from Godspell, not Jesus Christ Superstar.

  2. Keep up the good work, Mr. Middle Finger

  3. I had emailed thejerrysite about this a few months ago and, upon hearing 6/6 here for the first time here, I am even more convinced that this is Ptah the El Daoud. No, it's not exactly the same arrangement as Alice Coltrane's, but these guys certainly didn't mind playing loose with their material (compare the back to back first versions of Freedom Jazz Dance on 10/5 and 10/6 -- or heck, even their version of All Blues from the same 6/4 show), and it makes sense that they would substitute a standard blues progression given that they were just jamming on it. Glad to see this has been cleared up!


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