DEREK TRUCKS BAND
Linda Norris Auditorium - WAMC Performing Arts Center, Albany, NY
August 14, 2006
by Randy Treece
A standing room only audience, comprised of an unexpected demographics ranging from pre-teens to those near post-mortem, experienced one of Rolling Stone's 100 best guitarists and his stellar band perform on a sweet and musically splendiferous evening. Those who adore testosterone-driven guitar interplay were steadfastly bundled together with their eager faces pressed against the stage to observe, first hand, the mighty guitar licks of slide-guitar phenomena Derek Trucks, and he certainly did not disappoint a single soul.
With the release of Songlines, and his prodigious band in tow, the new vanguard of the Blues strutted his incomparable musical wares before an appreciative audience. The music is rooted in the Blues but those roots are ornamented with R&B, jazz, world music, and old-fashioned, hard rock. After six albums, Trucks' musical process has been evocative and evolutionary, and consequently so is the Blues.
He is the Blues' newest royalty with considerable rock and roll and blues bona fides and lineage that hail from an uncle who is one of the founders of the Allman Brothers, his marriage to another Blues superstar, Susan Tedeschi, and his enormous talent. When Trucks plays, he presents an idiosyncratic pose - with the exception of his arms, he stands motionless looking to his left, his face is expressionless, not even the trimmings of a smile, and other than introducing the members neither he nor the band members speak. And yet his hands and fingers hammered out some of the most astounding, effortless guitar statements one will ever hear. He is the archetypal, reticent artist who is dedicated only to his art. That commitment to the music and his virtuosity is so widely regarded and demanded that he has played with rock star legends such as the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton, just to name a few.
Trucks is surrounded by wonderfully gifted musicians and their contribution to Trucks' sound cannot be marginalized. Todd Smalllie, the bassist, and super drummer, Yonrico Scott, have been with Trucks the longest; Kofi Burbridge, who doubles on flute and keys, is steeped in jazz's improvisational tradition; erudite Count M?Butu is on congas and percussion; and the newest member is vocalist Mike Mattison, the missing link to an already stellar band and unique sound. Not to diminish any of the other musicians' contributions, next to Trucks, Mattison's voice lends the most color and texture to the music. Mattison has this uniquely quintessential blues-shout-type of voice - foggy and sand paper rough with some range when solicited. Favoring Etta James's complexion, visage, and intensity, it is unfathomable that this Blues fermented voice can come from someone so young.
Most of the evening repertoire leaned upon Trucks' newest release. The solos were brief and tight, lasting probably eight to sixteen bars, but were not hackneyed, and certainly full of surprises. A Trucks show is a musical stream of consciousness without even a pause to introduce the songs. The gig started with a throbbing, rock propulsion, gospel-like anthem, "Joyful Noise." Not relenting on the hypnotic rhythms, the band charged into "Volunteer Slavery", which would have garnered Rahassan Roland Kirk's respect, and with a mini-bridge segued into "I'llFind My Way", an organ driven prototypical modern Blues jam. The band grooved on
a funky rendition of "Crow Jane", emblazoned "Chevrolet" with an authentic Mississippi Delta embroidery, and then shifted to middle eastern, world fanciful musings on "Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni", with slick slide guitar articulations. The surprise of the evening was a credible jazz rendition of "Greensleeves", akin to Coltrane's version, with Trucks and Burbridge stretching their improvisational prowess to soaring heights. The Jamaican reggae draped song "Sailing On" and the contemplative "This Sky", enriched with Mattison singing falsetto, had the slower tempos of the evening. The band's nod to R&B was unleashed on "I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled, and Crazy", shaded by striking slide guitar work, and for an encore, the band launched into "For My Brother" which was reminiscently Santana.
The audience was so appreciative of the genuine treatment of the music that even a flubbed attempt at a near introduction on one of the songs was met with extraordinary delectation.
Randy Treece is an avid and ubiquitous fan of jazz music, especially on the local scene. For many years he has contributed jazz artist reviews for "A Place For Jazz "and has written album reviews on request by jazz artists. Randy resides in Albany.