Words by: Eric Liebetrau | Images by: Hiroya Wakabayashi
Derek Trucks Band :: 11.07.08 :: Blender Theater :: New York, NY
In the mid-'90s, Derek Trucks began gaining cred for his work in the Allman Brothers Band, mainly due to his strikingly accurate approximation of the classic slide guitar of the late Duane Allman. Given his age (he first played with the legendary band while still in his early teens) and impressive chops, fans eagerly proclaimed him a prodigy - and for good reason. Following his success with the Allmans and countless other projects, in the last decade his eponymous band has gained increasing traction, playing sold-out shows in mid-level theaters and arenas across the country.
After playing a Thursday night concert at the Highline Ballroom in New York City, the band traveled across town for a packed Friday night show at the Blender Theater at Gramercy. The last time I saw the band live, they were plagued with the muddy acoustics and less-than-savory ambience of The Music Farm in Charleston, SC. This night proved to be a far more enjoyable experience, featuring clean sound and a well constructed, smoothly flowing set that showcased the bands' grounding in blues-rock as well as their ability to seamlessly blend elements of progressive jazz, soul, world and R&B.
In that vein, opener Eric Krasno and his band warmed up the crowd with the jazz-funk hybrid that Krasno's other band, Soulive, has nearly perfected. Featuring Nigel Hall - whose work on Soulive's recent No Place Like Soul was well-received - on keyboards and vocals and Lettuce veteran Adam Deitch on drums, the band tore through their short set in typical blazing fashion.
After taking the stage, Trucks and his band - Todd Smallie (bass), Yonrico Scott (drums, percussion), Kofi Burbridge (keys, flute), Mike Mattison (lead vocals) - jumped right in to "Done Got Over," a revved-up blues number that has become a DTB staple. The tropical "Sailing On" was the first demonstration of the depth of Mattison's husky, emotive vocal ability, and also signaled the arrival of a frequent DTB contributor, percussionist Count M'Butu, of Aquarium Rescue Unit fame. Though always in the background, the Count provided a nice subtle layer to the music.
"Sailing On" also included some inventive soloing from Trucks, who continually surprises in the directions he takes the guitar. There's such fluidity to his playing; it never seems like he's searching for an idea. Other guitarists may repeat a phrase over and over, or hold an unnecessarily long sustain, feeling around for the next direction. Trucks just keeps pushing, a cerebral expression locked on his face as he moves from theme to theme.
Four straight tracks from the forthcoming new album, Already Free (arriving January 13, 2009), followed: "Down in the Flood," a hidden Bob Dylan gem from The Basement Tapes; "These Days Is Almost Gone," an up-tempo ballad spotlighting Mattison's blues/soul vocal mixture; "Don't Miss Me," which was fairly unremarkable; and the uplifting "Sweet Inspirations."
Though the acoustic mini-set was well executed, my memory of the specifics faded quickly under the weight of the monster "My Favorite Things" that followed. The appropriately soft beginning merely hinted at the melody, dancing around the central figure before Trucks enunciated it properly. What followed was a lengthy, meandering yet entirely captivating jam that used the well-known melody merely as a jumping-off point. Moving from light and airy to ferocious in a matter of seconds, Trucks exploded off frequent Coltrane-inspired tangents, demonstrating his dizzying capabilities that range well beyond mere slide playing. In fact, he worked without the slide for the entire song, leading the band, Hendrix-style, through a rolling landscape that eventually wound back to the main theme.
As everyone caught their breath, Yonrico Scott announced the guests for the next tune, namely Krasno, Hall and Deitch. Though it's one of the most well worn covers available, this version of Allen Toussaint's "Get Out My Life Woman" was enlivened by instrument rotation between Scott and Deitch, and Burbridge and Hall, in addition to a brief Krasno/Trucks duel. Krasno played well off Trucks' jazzy side, and the two seemed to be on the same page. Everyone onstage was obviously having a good time, so the set-ending "Joyful Noise," featuring all the guests, was appropriate.
|The Derek Trucks Band|
A short treatment of "Down Don't Bother," a standout track from the new album, kicked off the encore, which ended with a track that DTB often covers, "Freddie's Dead." The Curtis Mayfield tune was a perfect choice given the guests on-hand, and Mattison delivered the falsetto lyrics to maximum effect. The crescendo built to a soulful climax, closing a wholly engaging set of music led by one of contemporary American music's most innovative guitarists.
11.07.08 :: Blender Theater :: New York, NY
Done Got Over, Sailing On, Down In The Flood, These Days Is Almost Gone, Don't Miss Me When I'm Gone, Sweet Inspiration, Soul Of A Man, Chicken Robber, Meet ME At The Bottom, My Favorite Things. Get Out Of My Life*^#, Get What You Deserve, Joyful Noise*#, Down Don't Bother Me, Freddie's Dead1*^#
*w/Eric Krasno - Guitar
^w/Adam Deitch - Drums
#w/Nigel Hall - Keys
Derek Trucks Band "A Joyful Noise" Blender NYC
Check this show on www.archive.org.
Derek Trucks Band is on tour now, dates available here.
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