Garth Hudson, “Garth Largo” from Largo (1998): Across the Great Divide

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In a group simply stuffed with master musicians, Garth Hudson was the Band’s unquestioned virtuoso — as adept at his signature organ as he was a saxophone as he was a synthesizer as he was the accordion. In keeping, his enduring wit and creativity has been rightly celebrated across all manner of disciplines. Still, there’s more to find, more to discover and marvel over, as heard here in what may be Garth Hudson’s least-heralded triumph.

“Garth Largo” finds Hudson once again on sax, as well as synth as well as accordion as well as organ, using every element of his enduring genius to reconceptualize a classical piece by Antonin Dvorak. Sister Maud, Garth Hudson’s long-time wife and musical partner, adds a gospel-inspired vocal to complete things. The results are humbling in their scope, and thrilling in their emotional depth.

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Garth Hudson’s terrific reconceptualizing of “Largo,” from an album of the same name, is actually one of string of them presented as part of an album based on Dvorak’s pre-war Americana-inspired New World Symphony. Still, it’s perhaps the best, giving weight and color to new compositions found elsewhere on Largo by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian — whose original Rick Chertoff-produced, Band-inspired concept for the sixth album by the Hooters grew into something far more interesting.

Hudson’s Band mate Levon Helm is also a featured guest (duetting on “Gimme a Stone” with David Forman), along with Tal Mahal, Joan Osbourne, the Chieftains, Cyndi Lauper and Carole King. Garth Hudson later performed as part of a Antonin Dvorak-focused concert at Vassar College in 2001. Unfortunately, “Garth Largo” — tucked away, as it was, on a forgotten late-1990s concept album — seemed to vanish after that. The journey back, however, is entirely worth it.

Across the Great Divide is a weekly, song-by-song examination from Something Else! on the legacy of the Band, both together and as solo artists. The series runs on Thursdays.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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