The development of the Derek Trucks Band has followed a progression that appears to be the perfect marketing plan. But there’s nothing any more contrived about the sequence of events than there is simply the music itself. The release of the band's diverse major label debut, Joyful Noise
, segued smoothly to the next year’s almost-all instrumental Soul Serenade
(actually recorded before Noise
but held up in legalities), demonstrating why seeing DTB live had become such a powerful experience.
No surprise then that a year later, we now have Live at The Georgia Theatre , available as an online download through iTunes and directly from the DTB website as well. With the dual virtues of individual instrumental chops and band unity brimming on such eclectic choices as Rahsaan Kirk’s “Volunteered Slavery,” this set also marks the next step in the group’s evolution, as it features the regular vocal contributions of Mike Mattison; whether wailing ecstatically on “Gonna Move” or whispering on “Feel So Bad,” Mattison is never an intrusion, but instead gives the listener a chance to hear how Trucks plays around a singer, where you can hear him demonstrating an equally sure grasp of nuance and dynamics.
The contributions of latter-day (2002) recruit Kofi Burbridge, brother of Allman Brother bassist Oteil, have broadened as well, so that his multiple keyboards, as well as the injection of airy flute work, extends the range of the band even more. And with Mattison around, the Derek Trucks Band now has two first class vocalists—listen to their call and response on “Joyful Noise.” Burbridge and drummer Yonrico Scott strut their respective stuff on “Angola” before the entry of the rest of the band, including bassist Todd Smallie, who makes his presence felt in the deft navigation of the lightning changes in the band’s direction. The sound recording captures such detail impeccably, but impressive as is that technical virtue, it’s less so than the noticeable democracy at work within DTB.
That’s no small compliment to its leader since the profoundly imaginative approach Derek Trucks takes to electric guitar is all the more extraordinary given his comparative youth. The scholarly, spiritual approach to music suggested in the liner notes suggests the source of his humility, perfectly in keeping with his beatific countenance, which itself belies the intensity with which he plays. Giving new definition to the role of guitar hero, he takes a Far Eastern approach in his playing, where patience is a step in the deconstruction and rebuilding of the band’s momentum during a performance such as “Sahib Teri/Maki Madni.”
Sleek (the DTB original “So Close, So Far Away") or syncopated (Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly tune ”Freddie’s Dead”), the purity of inspiration and execution over the course of two-plus hours will doubtless bring delight to any true aficionado of progressive music, all the more so because Live At The Georgia Theatre suggests that the reach of the Derek Trucks Band may never exceed its members' collective grasp.
Personnel: Derek Trucks: guitar; Todd Smallie: bass and vocals; Yonrico Scott: drums, percussion and vocals; Kofi Burbridge: keyboards, flute and vocals; Mike Mattison: lead vocals; count M'Butu: percussion