Derek Trucks Band with Tony Furtado and the All-American Gypsies
January 31, 2003 | Gothic Theatre | Englewood, CO

The historic Gothic Theatre hosted the Derek Trucks Band in the midst of their ten-city tour of Colorado. The art-deco craftsmanship adorning the interior of this venue was a fitting environment for the musicianship it witnessed. Tony Furtado and the American Gypsies opened the evening with abundant flair with tunes ranging from bluegrass, blues and folk to flat-out, jaw-dropping jams. This double-billed event, expected to continue through its current tour schedule, meshes two bands that each showcase an amazing guitarist. At the end of the night, the audience had been treated to such a diversity of musical styles that it seemed more like four or five bands had taken the stage.

Tony Furtado's Band, who now call Portland, Oregon home, played a fourteen song set in which Tony employed four guitars (two acoustic) and one banjo during his performance. Tony's current preference seems to be acoustic guitar, used in almost half of their songs. Standouts included "Stagger Lee" - "A pretty song about a mean guy," Mr. Furtado premised - "St. John's Fire," and "Oh Berta, Berta." Kofi Burbridge from Derek Truck's band joined at mid-set to play flute for two songs. Guitarist Gawain Mathews provided ample pyrotechnics to balance Tony's acoustic instrumentation. In the spirit of sharing, Gawain later joined DTB to assist with a couple of their newer tunes. Overall, the mix of acoustic, rhythmic interplay was well received by the near-capacity audience. Moments of brilliance did occur, such as in their finale, but not as often as I would have hoped.

The Derek Trucks Band is not quite a household name, but give it time. Those who've experienced shows from his early prodigious career are now being treated to an artist who has found his voice. Derek was blessed with the opportunity to grow up within an extended family of musicians. His membership with the Allman Brothers Band since 1999 has clearly given him "big-time" exposure that he now is channeling into his own band. The Gothic was sold-out before he took the stage.

While the ABB rich repertoire of music affords Derek ample range to explore his craft, DTB's latest album, Joyful Noise is a testament to more worldly influences from Pakistani Qawwali and Latin salsa to more familiar jam genres of blues, soul, jazz and funk. DTB's thirteen-song set this evening exemplified this spectrum of cultures.

With only a brief break between bands, DTB's single set opened with "Preachin Blues," a song that introduced many audience members to Mike Mattison, the band's singer since May of last year. "Kam-ma-lay" followed and the band built it as a salsa-tinged groove. Yonrico Scott's drum solo transitioned into the bouncy blues of "Gonna Move." Yonrico's exaggerated facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission. The band then moved into "Sahib Teri" and its trance-like rhythms of Sufi tradition.

In this tour, the band is starting to introduce newer songs. One of these, entitled "Mike's Tune" indicates the contributions of their vocalist. These jams were soulful with Derek playing slide guitar and partaking in dramatic musical interplay with his bandmates. Yonrico's drum solo on Mike's Tune introduced Gawain Mathews of Tony Furtado's band to join for a couple songs. After Gawain's intense solo, Kofi Burbridge delivered a funky flute solo. I noticed Derek make eye contact with Kofi towards the end of his performance and Kofi started softening his play as a transition to Todd Smallie who stepped into a tight bass solo that segued into a drum solo. After Yonrico "spoke" his piece, Derek and Gawain brought us home with dueling guitars. This was a jazz band in action.

"Egg 15" followed and the sound-activated dancing Homer Simpson doll on Todd's amp got a work-out from the groove. "Home in your Heart" and "Everything is Everything" followed. Somebody put something in Todd's water because he started grinning uncontrollably during his solo leading into "Going Down Slow." Mike's emotional vocal contributions really shine on blues numbers. His growling phrases such as "leavin on the next train, goin' down slow," let you feel his blues. Derek's deep solo then mirrored this sentiment. Mike has a reserved stage presence which is not a bad thing but it will be interesting to see how his performance develops as he gains greater comfort from experiences on this tour.

Todd switched to his 6-string bass for "Pedro" while Kofi and Derek volleyed riffs at each other. Apparently Kofi won this match as Derek broke a string. He had been playing his red Gibson guitar autographed by Walter "Wolfman" Washington throughout the evening and he was handed his custom Washburn gold guitar to finish the song with a powerful jam. "Joyful Noise" concluded the set with its funky gospel style that got the house jumping. The lone encore, "Afro Blue" sealed the deal. This band's ability to meld styles is truly exceptional. The Derek Trucks Band is heading down the road, handing out a little something different for everyone. As they continue to expand their musical horizons, it should be an interesting ride.

Words: Haig Assadourian
Photos: Tony Stack
JamBase | Denver
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[Published on: 2/10/03]

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