Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Vogue Theater
November 8, 2013
Jazz has always taken from the pop music of its day and culturalized it, intellectualized it, added some soul or swing and for those who are capable, added the personalized artistic X factor that is unique to that artist's DNA. Not that simple by any means, of course.
Today, the younger rock generation often wishes they were around when the Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, the Doors and the Allman Brothers were performing with that certain attitude that added a timeless element to the music. Not dissimilar from one's desire to have been there when Louis, Bird, Hawk, Pres, Duke and Billie were knocking out crowds with their timeless personalized approaches.
But today, for most performing in contemporary music it's more about money, fame, stage presence, beauty and sexuality than it is about attitude and artistic creativity.
However, there is always an exception and that exception today is a group of creative musicians that takes all of those intellectual and artistic aspects of music and delivers the goods in their own unique way, while maintaining the accessibility of their personalized sound. Led by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, they are the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and they are able to blend together all of the elements found in music and art while looking to the future in their quest for artistic freedom. But they are also unique in that they draw from more musical elements and then create their own sound by looking through a different lens, a lens that looks and starts its journey from the opposite end of that creative door.
In many ways, it is a band that reminds me of the group that Miles Davis pulled together for his Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) period. Not in their sound necessarily, but in their approach to discovering new artistic territories. Davis often received accolades for finding young, talented musicians who also added chemistry, such as Dave Holland, Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea and Jack DeJohnette.
But one of the most critical and overlooked elements that was part of Davis' genius was his ability to select musicians that were not paralyzed by the music of previous jazz traditions, nor limited by any music or artistic paradigms. And it's those paradigms that still prevent that particularly great music to be fully realized today (one of the exceptions being Holland's recent Prism (Dare2, 2013), with Craig Taborn, Kevin Eubanks and Eric Harlanda fresh, masterful work looking inside a previous approach, but one that has yet to be fully explored).
Tedeschi and Trucks have selected musicians (Kofi Burbridge on keyboards, Tyler Greenwell on drums and percussion, J.J. Johnson on drums and percussion, Mike Mattison on harmony vocals, Mark Rivers on harmony vocals, Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Maurice Brown on trumpet, Saunders Sermons on trombone and Tim Lefebvre on bass) that are not bound by genre or creative direction, something which is critical if the intention is to enter new realms of sound and music. And importantly, this is a band that also listens on a deeper vertical level. As the late, great Pablo Casals once said: "The heart of a melody can never be put down on paper." Nor can it be fully realized from only the surface of the music.
On any given night, this is a band that ventures into blues, rock, country, funk, jazz, gospel, Cajun, many musical approaches of the avant-garde, free improvisation, soul, rhythm and blues, the sounds of New Orleans, and several styles of music from India.
Trucks has studied the artistic sensibilities of Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan just as strongly as he has John Coltrane and Cecil Tayloror Son House and Elmore James. As he once stated (it may not have been these exact words), "Practicing has to also include the critical time spent listening." And, of course, art cannot be expanded if you don't know where it's already been.