Baby, You’re A Rich Fan…
“Embarrassment of riches” is a phrase that always comes to mind when I do my annual overview of the spring and summer music scene in New York City. These outdoor concerts feature a treasure trove of listening opportunities that when amassed across a short three month period is not only mind boggling but for the most part offered FREE to the general public.
On May 18th, The City Parks Foundation launched its 30th Central Park SummerStage season with a great show by what I think is the quintessential American band of our time, The Tedeschi Trucks Band. They are also currently my favorite band. You may have already read my rhapsodizing about why I love them here and as far back as my Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 BluRay review on PiercingMetal.Com. I’ll give you the spiel anyhow.
S’oul in the Family…
By design, TTB is a 21st century Delany and Bonnie and Friends with a twist of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman. Those bands form the roots of a tall family tree that includes Derek and The Dominoes, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, The Grease Band, mid-period Rolling Stones and George Harrison’s masterpiece, the All Things Must Pass album (1970).
Though the namesake of wife and husband Susan and Derek, TTB is also the vehicle for a boatload of musicians who could equally front their own bands. These are 11 amazing players, vocalists, and songwriters who make what appears a juggernaut run like a Ferrari.
Derek Trucks – Guitar
Susan Tedeschi – Guitar & Vocals
Kofi Burbridge – Keyboards & Flute
Tyler Greenwell – Drums & Percussion
J.J. Johnson – Drums & Percussion
Mike Mattison – Harmony Vocals
Mark Rivers – Harmony Vocals
Kebbi Williams – Saxophone
Maurice Brown – Trumpet
Saunders Sermons – Trombone
Tim Lefebvre – Bass Guitar
Strains of blues, gospel, free jazz, southern soul, and “Americana” run through the veins of TTB. While they embody the ethos of a jam band they also never lose sight of the song in favor of endless extrapolation. That said, you will find that their studio recordings, while excellent, are merely a starting point for evolution. Like The Allman Brothers Band before them the real way to appreciate TTB is live onstage. Surprises like opening their swampy barn burner “The Storm” with the coda from Led Zep’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” make the shows exciting and fun for savvy listeners.
Though a few tunes like Mike Mattison’s “Midnight in Harlem” have deservedly become fan favorites and apparent staples, the group continuously juggles their set-lists to keep things interesting for camp followers and they always pick great cover tunes (from Bobby “Blue” Bland to The Beatles) that inform the audience of their musical lineage.
Like the Foo Fighters they are extremely respectful of what came before them, the musical shoulders they stand on, and also like FF they are not shy about shining a light on those progenitors. For instance this summer at the Interlocking Music Festival in Arrington, VA., TTB will pay homage to the late Joe Cocker with a tribute concert (including original members) to the aforementioned Mad Dogs and Englishman band. They’ve already regularly played “Space Captain” in the past, but the idea of having this band dive into “Delta Lady,” “Cry Me A River,” “Feeling Alright,” and Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham’s “The Letter” is beyond exciting for this fan.
Join Together with the Band…
Inviting fellow musicians to join them on stage is also a standard practice. At Summerstage, Clapton cohort Doyle Bramhall II augmented the group for a healthy portion of the set including a funky workout on Derek and the Dominoes’ “Keep On Growing” and blues standard “Key to the Highway.” They also hosted Ms. Sharon Jones who delighted the capacity crowd performing two classic soul numbers, Etta James’ “Tell Mama” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me.” Jones and her band The Dap Kings will support TTB this season on the “Wheels of Soul” Tour. It seems a perfect match, and I suspect we will be treated to many more duets between Susan and Sharon.
TTB Central Park SummerStage Setlist, May 18, 2015
Made Up Mind
Do I Look Worried
Midnight In Harlem
Get What You Deserve (Mike Mattison, lead vocal)
I’ve Got A Feeling/Jam (Beatles cover w/ Doyle Bramhall II)
Keep On Growing (Derek and the Dominoes cover w/ Doyle)
Key to the Highway (Charles Segar cover w/ Doyle)
Break in Every Road
Bring It On Home To Me (Sam Cooke cover w/ Sharon Jones)
Tell Mama (Etta James cover w/ Sharon Jones)
I Pity the Fool (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
Bound For Glory
More and More (Little Milton cover)
Give that show, and so much more, a listen by exploring the wonderful tapers’ community at the Internet Archive. There’s lots of Soulive and Lettuce there too. Also, be sure to treat yourself to a ticket or three to see Tedeschi Trucks Band as they tour throughout the year.
September will see The Tedeschi Trucks Band roll into New York City’s beautiful Beacon Theater for a residency that I hope eventually grows to rival The Allman Brothers’ now legendary March encampments.
Before that, be sure to check out the schedules of amazing free shows throughout NYC this summer.
The City Parks Foundation SummerStage offers concerts in all five boroughs, BRIC’s Celebrate Brooklyn series has a great line-up at the Prospect Park bandshell, and City Winery has outdoor shows (5:30 – 7:00 pm) behind the venue on their loading dock (which they like to call Hudson Square Mall) on Tuesday evenings starting June 2.
If you’ve been watching Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi slow cook the “soul stew” over the last couple of years you might have found yourself wondering “is it soup yet?”. The answer – in the form of the first official Tedeschi Trucks Band album titled “Revelator” – is a resounding YES! The couple having already taken matrimonial vows in 2001 now seals the deal musically as well.
To those following the story from even a periphery view it comes as no real revelation. Derek and Susan have made high profile joint appearances in both Crossroads Festival DVD’s playing a mix of music that included covers of tunes associated with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (“Coming Home”), its subsequent entourage Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen (“Space Captain”), as well as Clapton’s Derek and The Dominoes (“Anyday”). Each of those projects featured a loose amalgamation of many of the same musicians (Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Leon Russell, Jim Price). They burned bright and hot for a short period of time in the late 1960’s and early 70’s but imploded quickly. In all the best ways The Tedeschi Trucks Band fulfills the promise of those short lived groups by bringing together a pool of talent from both Susan and Derek’s solo groups, along with an expansive group of “friends” that includes John Leventhal, Eric Krasno of Soulive, Doyle Bramhall II, vocalist Ryan Shaw (a personal fave), Gary Louris (Jayhawks), and many others.
WHAT IT IS… A FUNKY AND LOWDOWN BEAT
Though calling a musical amalgamation a “gumbo” has become cliche, TTB has created a sonic menu with no better descriptor where all the influences meld perfectly. There’s a good deal of savory N’Orleans flavor throughout. The album opener “Come See About Me” grabs your attention with a head turning snare snap and deep funk Meters-esque groove. “Love Has Something Else To Say” percolates along on hammond organ chug and choke before evolving into a guitar versus horn duel.
“Until You Remember”, opens with an elegiac “first line” horn section then slips into classic R&B style reminiscent of Bert Berns and Jerry Ragavoy. A song you might expect to find in the late Garnett Mimms’ catalog. It has become a repeated listening favorite of mine. Though reverential in style, authors Susan and Derek along with John Leventhal, avoid slavish adherence to form with a sly and unexpected change of chord work that lifts the choruses and gives Derek a wonderful bed to solo over. I would love to hear what this one sounds like on stage.
The heartfelt “Midnight in Harlem” will be familiar to those who’ve seen the “Crossroads 2010” DVD where it got sneaked peeked live. Co-authored by Truck’s Band vocalist Mike Matisson and Derek, it’s a gem of a tune carried along by a languid chord progression over which Derek lays out some beautiful slide guitar sure to make Allman’s fans smile.
In a musical genre steeped in swagger Susan admirably holds down the vocal spot with strong leads that declaim, exclaim, and sometimes maim with honesty – just “tell the truth”. She’s not shy to get down in “jock rock” territory by wrestling “Learn How To Love’s” monster riff and rusty, primordial, slide guitar. This tune evokes nothing short of Jimmy Page on a ‘gator hunt with the cast of “Swamp People”; something you might expect to hear Paul Rogers or Steve Marriot belt. “Choot ‘em” indeed. The softer side is shown on tunes like album closer “Shelter” which simultaneously channels The Band, Billy Preston era Beatles, and All Things Must Pass era George Harrison. Are those all the same thing?
Sidestepping the pitfall of creating an homage to another time and place Jim Scott’s co-production (with Trucks) keeps the sound solid, up close and personal, and most importantly modern. The only extraneous track is the late album jam called “Shrimp and Grits” which I suppose is meant to serve as an aural palette cleanser. Otherwise this a rock solid – one great song after another – record that proves the confederation of these bands into an 11 piece juggernaut to be a brilliant decision.
What’s missing? Where the hell is a take of “John The Revelator” as teasingly promised by the title.
SKELETONPETE SAYS –
The Tedeschi Trucks Band debut “Revelator” is released June 7, 2011 on the Sony Masterworks imprint. My personal recommendation is buy it immediately. I believe it will it continue to reveal secrets and find its way onto your playlists for years to come just like the classic records these players clearly revere.