While driving from Seattle, WA to the performance in Vancouver, Canada, there was an unplanned hour-and-forty-minute stay in the offices of the Canadian border. This is now the third time in a row experiencing such unplanned border visits, thus I feel as if I should warn any musicians who plan to travel and perform in Canada. I would also like to emphasize, very clearly, that the people of Canada are not a reflection of the practices of their 12-note border police.
Even with the border holdover, I was still able to make it to my seat just 10 minutes before the show was to begin. And within seconds of Tedeschi walking to the front of the stage, the audience began singing "Happy Birthday" to her, as she looked at Trucks and the rest of the band and blushed. From this point, the energy of the room increased threefold and all of a sudden, you knew that this was going to be a special evening of music, and you could see it in the band members as well.
Starting their set with a lush horn intro to kick off "All That I Need," the horn arrangements were led by one of the great but perhaps lesser known trumpet players today, Maurice Brown
. He has a warm center to his tone that is very difficult to capture on his instrument. It takes a lot of strength but an almost perfect sense of pitch, and you have to have something musical and expressive to say or you end up sounding sterile; hardly the case for Brown. He started his career with Ramsey Lewis
and has played with such greats as Johnny Griffin
, Clark Terry
, Ellis Marsalis
, Fred Anderson
, Curtis Fuller
and Roy Hargrove
But in many ways, it was Tedeschi who was the heart and soul of this band. There are very few who can carry such a creative presence that they are able to change the feel of an entire band so strongly and so quickly. I found it amazing to watch. In this case, she brought a sensual feel to each word, adding a certain richness and humility that captivated both the audience and the band.
If there was ever any question of the band coming to play, it was answered during the next seven to eight minutes. Trucks started with the chords for "Made Up Mind," and it became readily apparent that there was something different about the overall musical approach on this night. The chord style reminded me of the guitarist's hero, Elmore James
, but Trucks attacked the notes with a ferocity and attitude that we just don't hear much anymoreand, most importantly, with a voice that was all uniquely his.
When the band finally kicked in, they attacked the front end of each note with a passion and urgency that gave the sound an even fresher and more intense, in- the-moment statement. I'm not sure why more bands don't utilize this approach, as it is a sure way to make the music come alive and bring the band and audience together as one. As bands mature, the tendency is for them to begin to slide more and more towards the back end of each note, which can make the song drag or in some cases, even suck the life out of a tune. But add a younger drummer who understands how to manipulate the emphasis during the life cycle of each note, and you can change the entire dynamic of a composition and give it new life.
I was also surprised to hear Trucks jumping in headfirst with his first solo. He usually has his own way of settling in, but tonight he came out firing on all cylinders. Before "Made Up Mind" was over, he gave a solo that completely justified Eric Clapton
's statement that Trucks has a bottomless pit of creativity as a guitarist. Unlike many shredders, whose notes are simply bridges from note to note, Trucks gave each note a life, and importantly, a purpose. And that inherently demonstrated one of the differences between the entertainment and artistic aspects of music.
Entertainers look for hooks that will grab a listener's ear and return a hit or massive amounts of money and girls. They think about looking cool, and, at least in the case of men, having machismo or sexuality on stage, yet every individual who seeks those goals tends to think of himself as an artist, and that clearly is an insult to those who are.
In contrast, Trucks has said that he prefers not to have hits so that they can approach each performance without an expectation of having to play specific songs. Still, Tedeschi Trucks Band ended their set with their wonderful composition, "Midnight In Harlem." It is a tune that is their most popular but also their paradox. This is where Trucks displays what makes him so unique as a guitarist inside the history of the instrument.
There is also a history of spirituality in music that goes back to at least the 11th century (thank you Pat Martino
). But, perhaps, the strongest and most creative history comes from India. This isn't necessarily in a religious sense but in an artistic sense, where music is an expression created from the deepest depths of the spiritual soul. In most Western societies, it's an unbelievably difficult place to reach because we have our own culture and life experiences. Almost all of those who do reach it have found a way to eliminate their ego, which can place too much significance on one's own existence in the present, to be able to return to a place that is purer and more free to create from that reality. But it is important to note that each individual who has this ability has a different reality, depending upon their level of spiritual depth.
Think about it. John Coltrane
did; so did George Harrison
and so, too, does Derek Trucks. I'm not trying to compare anyone; I'm simply trying to describe a place in music that has a rich history that is relatively unknown in our society. Perhaps the most well-known musician from India in the west is Ravi Shankar
. He was also George Harrison's teacher and mentor until the day he died. Coltrane would name his son after him; perhaps you know him, Ravi Coltrane
But it was during Trucks' solo on "Midnight In Harlem" when he most often tried to travel to this realm of existence. Like with many ragas, Trucks started his solo slowly and softly, and you could hear the Indian influences. There was a certain sweetness, similar to a slow awakening of each of the nine human emotions, until his solo erupted into a kind of musical ecstasy. For me, this is one of Trucks' greatest gifts, one he has in common with the late John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix