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The Tedeschi Trucks Band Keeps on Growing

The Daily Music Break spends a lot of its time discussing musicians who are old and treading on past reputations, retired or no longer among the living.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is a true second generation southern rock band in a couple of ways. Of course, the most obvious is that Derek Trucks’ uncle Butch was a founding member and drummer in the Allman Brothers Band. Derek joined the band as well. On a more subjective level, The Tedeschi Trucks Band covers and writes songs from that are much broader than The Allman Brothers or other earlier southern rock bands. The band’s website cites Sly & the Family Stone, Miles Davis and George Jones to Joe Cocker, Nina Simone, and even Indian sarod master Ali Akbar Khan as influences. Click here on on the image for information on album “Live From the Fox Oakland.” Here is the info at iTunes.
There is nothing wrong with the first two and the third usually is is not voluntary. That being said, it’s fun once in a while to focus on an act that is at the height of its powers. The Tedeschi Trucks Band is one of these. It is a band with deep — very deep — ties to the previous generation of rock and roll and blues. Indeed, the goal seems to be to honor the previous generation while expanding the boundaries. (It pays at this point think about one of the most profound quotes ever, from William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”)

Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks were running their own bands. They toured together as Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi’s Soul Stew Revival in 2007 and, three years later, combined The Tedeschi Trucks Band. They got married somewhere along the way.

The first album, Revelator, won a Grammy. I like to think that the title was a shout out to Son House, who recorded the best known version of the blues song “John the Revelator.” I have nothing to back that up, but would like to think it’s so — even though the song is not even on the record.

Derek Trucks has a deep rock and roll heritage. His uncle, Butch Trucks, was drummer in The Allman Brothers Band. He was a precocious kid. Video of him playing at an unbelievably high level as a kid are common on YouTube.

Susan Tedeschi is not rock and roll royalty. She was, however, accomplished. Relatively early on – her Wikipedia profile is a bit light on dates, but this seems to be when she was about 20 – Tedeschi was opening for the likes of B.B. King, John Mellencamp, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan. She met Trucks while opening for The Allman Brothers, though that was later. An interesting associate of young Tedeschi is Tommy Shannon, who is a true link to the greats. Shannon played bass behind Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi (Photo: Michael F. O’Brien)
The two were married in 2001. It’s clearly a cool family: The kids’ names honor Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Khalil Gibran and John Coltrane.

A Bigger, More Diverse Band

The profile at the TTB’s site seems to be out of date. As of that writing, the band had eight members. The current Wikipedia entry says that there are 12 musicians. This clearly suggests that the group’s aspirations are to build on the classic electric blues structure, which generally includes four of five positions (i.e., lead and rhythm guitar, drums, bass, keyboard and vocals).

Clearly, it is far more than a classic blues band. Kofi Burbridge plays both keyboards and flute. There also is a saxophone player, a trumpeter, a trombonist and three harmony vocalists. TTB is a big band rooted in the blues and rock tradition. Rock and roll is about taking ideas and actual songs from earlier folk and blues players, reinterpreting and amplifying them. TTB does this and, in parallel, expands the genres of music that is being played.

The band released a live album early this year. The review at Arts Fuse of “Live From the Fox Oakland” reinforces the idea that TTB is not a blues or a rock band. It’s a crossover group that plays all genres. The clip above, “Let Me Get By,” is as much jazz and gospel as rock and blues. “Keep On Growing,” below, of course is a cover of the Derek and the Dominos classic.