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Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Vogue Theater

Lloyd N. Peterson Jr. By

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Tedeschi Trucks Band
Vogue Theater
Vancouver, BC
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 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 Harland—a 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 Taylor—or 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.

Tedeschi grew up spending countless days and hours listening to the gospel choirs of the black Baptist church along with studying all the blues masters of voice and guitar. With a voice often compared to Bonnie Raitt, there is also an uncanny resemblance to the soulful cry of Otis Redding and the depth and sensitivity of Etta James. Additionally, she is one bad-ass on guitar, with an ear and ability to capture various tones and styles used throughout the history of music. And incredibly, what still resonates throughout is not only her warm humility and sensitivity, but also the same confidence and soulfulness that comes through in her vocals.

One can also sense her passion and her commitment to the music, as well as a sincere appreciation of those who came before her. If there is a wish for this band, it would be for her and Trucks to select a piece from the Allman Brothers Band history and use it as a platform the way Trucks and Warren Haynes do with that band now, or that Duane Allman and Dickey Betts did in its early days. Speaking of Duane Allman, isn't it time that he gets held in the same regard as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page?

Trucks and Tedeschi are two obviously aware artists who have studied America's great cultural history—dating back to the era of African-American slavery, as well as R&B, blues, jazz...even the earliest days of rock 'n' roll from Big Joe Turner and the Kansas City scene, in addition to the history of the Grand Ole Opry that borrowed from the blues—but one would have to travel to Europe to acquire a grade school education on America's greatest contribution to the arts, born from African- American history.

Sadly, we don't teach our children about their own culture and history—and, not surprisingly, race continues to play a part in the decisions we make and what we choose to recognize and celebrate. Is it any wonder that some of our own great jazz and blues artists had to travel or even move to Europe to make a living and continue to play their own music?

Tedeschi Trucks Band is a group made up of eleven members, seven of which happen to be African-American. The leaders of the band are also a married couple with a son named after Charlie Parker and a daughter whose middle name is the same as that of Coltrane's mother, and which became the title of his classic ballad: "Naima."
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