Tedeschi Trucks Band
When Tedeschi Trucks Band first appeared on the scene, I remember thinking that the group had chosen the wrong name.
Sure, guitarist and blues singer extraordinaire, Susan Tedeschi, possessed one of the great voices in contemporary blues. But Derek Trucks, the most original and emotive electric slide guitarist since the late Duane Allman, deserved top billing. Trucks had joined the legendary Allman Brothers at 20, played with the likes of Bob Dylan and Joe Walsh as a teenager, and won a Grammy in 2010 with his Derek Trucks Band. Rolling Stone named him No. 16 on its list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”
Turns out the husband-wife team of Tedeschi-Trucks selected the perfect name. At the group’s sold-out Saturday, Nov. 11 appearance at the Orpheum in Los Angeles, Tedeschi showed herself as the heart and soul of this supremely talented 12-piece ensemble.
Over the course of the group’s two-hour-plus show, she brought the enthusiastic crowd to its feet repeatedly with her heartfelt singing, making every song her own. In the gorgeous “Midnight in Harlem” from the group’s 2011 Grammy-winning debut, Revelator, Tedeschi mesmerized with her soothing vocals that floated over a bed of Trucks’ languid guitar and keyboardist Kofi Burbridge’s sweet organ. In “I Pity the Fool,” a Bobby “Blue” Bland cover, Tedeschi stamped her feet to wring every ounce of emotion from her guitar and husky voice. So overcome by the music was Tedeschi that she took off her axe mid-solo, a la Jimi Hendrix, and began jamming behind her back.
Her affective vocals and tasty guitar licks call to mind a younger Bonnie Raitt.
Trucks said not a word the entire evening. He didn’t have to. His guitar expressed more than his words ever could. Trucks moved fluidly from blues to gospel, from rock to jazz, from Indian raga to R&B, oftentimes within the same song. His solos rarely overstayed their welcome and served only to take the music higher.
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One of the evening’s highlights was his gritty, aggressive soloing in the band’s “The Storm,” which also featured a tasty, jazzy interlude by drummers/percussionists Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson. Trucks, paying homage to his old band, then transitioned into an extended “Whipping Post” improv that conjured up the ghost of the late Duane Allman. Trucks' passionate playing turned The Orpheum into a musical cathedral, bringing congregants to their feet.
Tedeschi and Trucks by no means created this transcendent evening alone. They generously and smartly shared the spotlight with everyone in the group.
A musical juggernaut, the Tedeschi Trucks Band takes sounds in any and all directions, displaying the type of virtuosity that comes from spending 200 days on the road a year. The three-member horn section of saxophonist Kebbi Williams, trombonist Elizabeth Lea and trumpeter Ephraim Owens played with power, precision and passion. Williams’ funky sax solo during an incendiary “Don’t Know What It Means” proved a high point. Backup singers Mike Mattison, Alecia Chakour and Mark Rivers beautifully complemented Tedeschi. Bassist Tim Lefebrve, a musician on David Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar,” created a formidable rhythm section with the band’s drummers.
The evening ended with a loose version of “Let Me Get By,” the title song from the group’s most recent and strongest studio effort. As the band played, an eagle flashed on an overhead screen. The eagle, which also appears on the “Let Me Get By” album cover, made for a fitting symbol: fierce, free and bold, just like the Tedeschi Trucks Band.