Words by: Scott Horowitz | Images by Ray Proetto
Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi :: 12.31.10 :: Florida Theatre :: Jacksonville, Florida
Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi put their solo acts on hold in 2010 to write and make music together with a fresh new band. In April they began playing new songs, trying to find their identity. Ten months later they have evolved into a cohesive unit, putting out sets of music that flow as majestically as the nearby St. Johns River into the Atlantic Ocean. Their New Year’s Eve celebration took place near the river banks of Jacksonville, Florida.
|Derek & Susan by Ray Proetto|
After an opening set from Scrapmatic, the Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band began their NYE set with “Don’t Let Me Slide” followed by my personal favorite “Midnight in Harlem,” a hopeful tune with a comforting and familiar feel. Derek & The Dominoes tune “Anyday” saw Trucks sliding up and down his guitar, evoking cheers from the attentive audience. The show took a turn down Funky Street with “Love Has Something Else to Say.” Brothers Oteil (bass, Allman Brothers Band) and Kofi Burbridge (keyboards, Derek Trucks Band) emanated fun-loving grooves from their corner of the stage all night long, making way for some patrons to sashay in their New Year’s attire up the aisles of the Florida Theatre (until being told to sit down by security).
Kebbi Williams flowed through his saxophone across the stage, inspiring impressive leads from Oteil. Though this marked only the second show with the horn section, put together specifically for this New Year’s run, it seemed as if they had been in the band since April. Joining Williams, on trombone, was Saunders “Service” Sermons and Maurice “Mo’ Betta” Brown on trumpet.
|Horn section by Ray Proetto|
The execution of the Eric Clapton arrangement of “Presence of the Lord” had more and more people finding their way to their feet. However, most in the audience remained unsure of what to do with themselves physically, most remaining seated and grooving cerebrally. Mike Mattison took lead vocal duties on Taj Mahal‘s “Leaving Trunk,” which made way for new blues number “That Did It”. The verses have Mattison and Mark Rivers laying down playful background vocal harmonies with Motown-esque Aah-ooh's while Susan sings a soulful tale of heartache.
It is no secret that Susan is a world class vocalist, but on "That Did It" her guitar skills were front and center. She laid into her instrument with enough soul and power to make the ghost of Sister Rosetta Tharpe proud. Her approach to the six-string is a no-gimmick, loud and subtle reminder that she is the mother of Derek Trucks’ children.
Derek Trucks’ role as bandleader is performed perfectly. He gives everyone else onstage the space they need to become who they are musically. At times, when all eyes turn to him for a solo, he will defer the moment to someone else. Once everybody has found themselves in their given space, Trucks’ bright red Gibson SG is implied. With a meditative expression on his face, Derek tears sonic holes in the universe; each one providing grist for the mill of his spiritual journey with a guitar.
“Learn How to Love” is a thick swamp-fueled song that Derek and Susan wrote with Eric Krasno. Max Roach’s “Garvey’s Ghost” made an appearance late in the set featuring a powerful, tribal and lyrical drum solo which started with Tyler “The Falcon” Greenwell on groove duty while JJ Johnson took lead until handing it off to Greenwell, which led to both drummers playing off of each other with brilliant melody. The other band members gave the drummers their full, conscious attention during the drum solo, including Trucks, who took a knee center-stage as if to show respect for the most ancient form of musical expression.
The best, and rarest, quality of a good drummer is selflessness. Johnson and Greenwell pull selflessness out of each other creating a huge seamless rhythmic foundation on which the rest of the band rests upon. The end of “Garvey’s Ghost” began a cover of Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain.” which Derek and Susan recorded earlier in the year with Herbie Hancock at their backyard home studio.
|Derek & Susan Band by Ray Proetto|
The triumphant vocals at the beginning of Delany & Bonnie’s “Coming Home” started the countdown to midnight. Smiles, hugs, and kisses welcomed in the New Year as the band celebrated with Ray Charles’ “Night Time is The Right Time” and Mattison’s song “Bound for Glory”. Aretha Franklin’s “Spirit in The Dark” encored the evening and sent the North Florida faithful strutting into the night.
The band is due to release their first album in June of 2011 and has dates booked in April for Australia and New Zealand.
May the best of last year be the worst of this year.
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