Words by Jessica Lopa :: Images by Adam McCullough
The Derek Trucks Band & Susan Tedeschi :: 10.28.06 :: Nokia Theatre :: Times Square New York, NY
Susan Tedeschi took the stage at 8:00pm with a brief introduction to the crowd, sharing her nerves, calmly saying, "Deep breath." This was, however, the first and certainly the last indication of any nerves as she played with great finesse through her hour-and-a-half set, opening with her version of Sly and the Family Stone's "You Can Make It If You Try" and Ray Charles' "Tired of My Tears."
Susan Tedeschi & Derek Trucks :: 10.28 :: NYC
I am quickly reminded why I have been so enamored with Tedeschi in the past. My first exposure to her on Austin City Limits and the album Wait for Me is fresh in my mind. Tedeschi's voice is distinguishable by its clarity and intonation and by her ability to deliver a lyric with beautiful breath control. Tedeschi's artistic nature and ripened vocal ability allow her to breathe soulful vitality into every corner of her phrasing. She is one with her instrument as she is never far from wrapping her vocals in a harmonic matrix, evidence of an ingrained maturity for her craft. She has one of those voices that allows the listener direct insight into the meaning of the lyrics by way of clear pronunciation.
After Tedeschi's wonderful warm-up, husband Derek Trucks and his band opened with "I Wish I Knew." I like the message of this song and the appropriate gospel setting chosen for it. The band's use of gospel riffs, guitar and organ alike, make it recognizable to anyone with an ear for church-based music. Mike Mattison's lyrical and inspiring vocal pleas for freedom and understanding among mankind are wisely paired with Trucks' clean guitar solo, leading this joyful up-tempo song through feel-good solos within seven minutes, just long enough to get the audience moving forward with them.
Mike Mattison :: 10.28 :: NYC
In hindsight I think the decision to open with this selection gives first-time listeners like me insight into one of this band's overall goals: to unite all of us in a spiritual humanness.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery" followed as a great example of the band's knack for arranging. The use of instrumentation in the opening section of this song is anything but subtle. The transition into the hook is a formal musical conversation between a modal flute solo and sparing guitar remarks by Trucks. This short section converges into the main riff of the song. This arrangement highlights the disparity of timbre and range between both the light and airy flute and the thick sounds of Trucks' guitar. Mattison's chant–like vocals are then added in an impromptu fashion in unison with Trucks' guitar, an obvious reminiscing of early slave songs. The song is then brought to a higher ground with the addition of a bass drum-led rock beat, a stark contrast from the preceding, thin high-hat seam of a back-beat in the opening section. The organ gives this song wings when Mattison's easy-to-follow middle-ranged vocals are paired with background vocals, creating a full-band arrangement.
Derek Trucks :: 10.28 :: NYC
The instrumental piece "Sahib Teri Bandi," with its modal harmonic scheme, sounds mature and ripe with its peaks and valleys of musical nuances. Its main riff is easy to recognize between solos. There is an overwhelming coolness to this piece found in the musical expounding that the players create to show its harmonic appeal.
10.28.06 :: NYC
"Greensleeves" was a great surprise. The arrangement reminded me of progressive jazz, which I did not see coming. Derek Trucks' crowded and quick-moving solos showcase his ability to play to the rafters, seldom touching base with the "Greensleeves" melody from which his virtuosic solo was born. The climatic solo section, including all band members full-steam ahead, is highly evolved, an ending that has the crowd's praise and cheer. My guess is this is what they came to hear.
I think what impresses me most about the double-bill of Derek Trucks Band and Susan Tedeschi Band is the eclectic repertoire and the ability to play music from the roots up, including blues, jazz and soul. Within each song and piece is a journey, a musical personification of longing and pleasure through well-crafted arrangements and imaginative, virtuosic playing.
Tedeschi joins Trucks on Robert Johnson's, "Walking Blues." Tedeschi is supported by Trucks' comping, leaving lots of space for her to show she can sing a song against any musical background.
Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi :: 10.28 :: NYC
The inclusion of the Persuasions, with Trucks, Mattison, and Tedeschi, at the tail end of the show makes for a complementary combination of feel-good vocals and playing on the songs "Sugaree" and "Gonna Move." Tedeschi's laid-back country-swing opening of "Gonna Move" does not take long to build up to inspiring heights with the help of Mattison's vocals, Trucks' perfectly-timed playing, and strong organ in the forefront. Heavy-hitting cymbals flavor this song with new sounds at every change and turn of key.
There is a musical togetherness that is shared throughout the verses and choruses of these songs that is over-the-top without being too much. The show's encore concludes with "The Weight." Tedeschi's full-throat vocals are softened by her ability to remain musical. When it seems she has no room at the top of her range, she has a knack for curving phrases paired with breath support, demonstrating she's got the room and then some.
Layering of harmonies around the band solos, and soulful vocals by Tedeschi make these songs easy on the listeners' ears. Vocal liberty, creativity at the last choruses, and Trucks' wild guitar runs give the show's ending a boast that is enthusiastic, exciting, and at the same time clean and discernable, every element a listener needs to believe in a band - whether they know it or not.
JamBase | New York
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