Allman Brothers: 40 and counting, and closing Jazz Aspen
SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Derek Trucks recently passed a milestone in his tenure as guitarist with the Allman Brothers Band: Trucks has been a member of the Southern rock band for a full decade, representing one-third of his 30 years. It’s a long enough stretch that he has witnessed some changes and drama – none bigger than the ousting, in 2000, of founding singer-guitarist Dickey Betts. It’s also been enough time for him to take his share of the musical leadership of the group. In conversation, the soft-spoken Trucks is quick to defer to the three founding members who remain in the band, the “partners” as he calls them: singer-keyboardist Gregg Allman, drummer Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, and drummer Butch Trucks, Derek’s uncle. But for those who have seen the Allman Brothers’ recent gigs, it’s hard to say that Trucks’ slide guitar hasn’t become a driving force onstage.But a few months ago, Trucks got a clear reminder that his 10 years as an Allman is just a slice of the history of one of rock’s greatest acts. In March, the Allman Brothers did its usual multi-week run at New York City’s Beacon Theater, a tradition that has been in place twice as long as Trucks has been in the band. What wasn’t usual was the sense of commemoration: 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the coming together of brothers Duane and Gregg Allman with Betts, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks and bassist Berry Oakley in Jacksonville, Fla. The occasion was celebrated with 14 nights of guest musicians – Buddy Guy, Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby, Kid Rock, Phil Lesh and on and on – plus one guest-free night devoted to performing the Allmans’ first two albums in their entirety.”These historical markers make you stop and look back,” said Trucks from a hotel room in Denver, where the Allman Brothers Band was set to appear at Red Rocks before heading to Snowmass Village for a performance on Sunday, Sept. 6 at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival. “Usually you’re just running forward. Now you’re looking back and thinking, We’re still making legitimate music, and that’s something to be proud of.”Trucks said that this year’s Beacon stand was intended mostly as a way to remember Duane Allman, the slide guitarist who died in October 1971, at the age of 24, and who nevertheless landed the No. 2 spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the greatest guitarists of all time. Many of the guests were musicians who have played with Duane, including Eric Clapton, Duane’s mate in Derek & the Dominoes, who was making his first onstage appearance with the Allmans.The infusion of energy from the guests and the act of looking back has had a lasting effect on the band. Trucks said there has been a noticeable difference to this summer’s tour.”All the drama and shit from past history got brushed aside,” said Truck, who cites Duane Allman as his first influence, and an enduring one. “There’s a certain comfort level that I’ve haven’t seen. It’s the first instance where everybody is just enjoying it, not trying to make it right.”In the past, by the 10th of 15 shows, you can feel the energy waning. You’re looking at the finish line. This year, it was something to hear Gregg say, ‘I could keep on doing this.’ It’s good to see Gregg and Jaimoe smiling. You can see how much they love the job. Having Levon Helm and Clapton and Buddy Guy show up didn’t hurt. It seemed to spark things.”Another insider echoed that view. Gregg’s son Devon Allman, singer and guitarist of the band Honeytribe, sat in at one of the Beacon shows and came away impressed. “The core of Butch, Jaimoe and my dad, they were embracing not just the regular routine, but the whole 40-year-history,” said the 34-year-old Devon, who has sat in with the Allman Brothers – usually playing “Midnight Rider” – numerous times over 20 years. “It was the first time the three of them went, ‘Wow, this was an awesome run.'”The 40-year club is a pretty small one.”Trucks said that the current Allman Brothers lineup functions onstage as a democracy. “The leadership shifts throughout the night,” he said. “If you feel like taking the ball, you grab it and run with it. In the end, it’s the partners’ band. But Warren” – singer-guitarist Warren Haynes, whose 1989 entrance into the Allmans is widely considered to have saved the floundering band – “can be the quarterback. He’s got a great rapport with the younger guys, and a great relationship with the older members.”The overall good is what everyone is reaching for. And that hasn’t always been the case.”firstname.lastname@example.org
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