An Inveterate Ass

But genius trumpter Wynton Marsalis can still blow you away

I've always been an unabashed Allman Brothers Band hippie—for this stance, I hold no shame. They were, to my mind, the single greatest rock band of the '70s (and one of the best of the '90s, too, on the heels of their highly unlikely and inspirational comeback in the early part of the decade). I don't think anyone has ever equaled the late Duane Allman's combination of chops and raw soul on the slide guitar, and he's rightfully revered as a deity for his work. The two-drummer rhythm section swung like a little Basie Orchestra. Yet the real secret weapon and unsung hero was vocalist GREGG ALLMAN. Gruntin' Gregg, along with Van Morrison and Eric Burdon, is one of the few white blues vocalists who succeeded artistically on their own terms, creating an idiosyncratic style that transcends mere embarrassing parroting of existing black inflections. His mournful tone, understated phrasing and raw outpouring of emotion are pure, distilled heartbreak on such classics as "Please Call Home," "It's Not My Cross to Bear" and "Whipping Post."

Sadly, Allman has developed a reputation for putting on listless, uninspired solo concerts in recent years, but the people who criticize his malaise seem to miss the point—Allman has never been one to get in your face, be an animated performer, or set out to entertain with vivacious energy. He's a low-key personality to the point of being a burnout, but that's his bag: every note Allman sings is infused with misfortune and tragedy; as such, it would actually be inappropriate for him to flop about on a stage as if he gave a shit.

So go see Gregg on Wednesday night at the Sun Theatre. Close your eyes and listen to that voice at work. When it's over, you won't feel much like dancing, but your soul will have been moved to places both holy and infernal.

Wynton Marsalis performs with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Dr., Cerritos, (562) 916-8500. Sat., 8 p.m. $55-$75; Blues Unplugged V at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Cal State Long Beach, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, (562) 985-7098. Sat., 8 p.m. $23-$28; the Gregg Allman Band plays at the Sun Theatre, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2700. Wed., 8:30 p.m. $37.40-$42.50.
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