Tedeschi Trucks Band headlines at Snowmass chili/brew fest
SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Susan Tedeschi’s parents were rightly proud of their daughter when she fronted her own band. Mr. and Mrs. Tedeschi’s singing, guitar-playing child, after all, earned four Grammy nominations, opened for Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, and had her 1998 album, “Just Won’t Burn,” certified gold, a particularly impressive accomplishment for a blues artist. And the Tedeschis were similarly proud of their son-in-law, Susan’s husband, Derek Trucks, who earned membership in the Allman Brothers Band, led his own eponymous group to prominence, and was the youngest musician to land a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.But the Tedeschis’ past enthusiasm doesn’t compare to what they are generating for their daughter’s latest project, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which she co-leads with Trucks. “My parents are excited,” Tedeschi said in a recent phone interview. “They were excited about my band, but not like this. They’re picky. They see a buzz happening, and sense that, together, this outshines the other projects. They’re following us on Amazon, watching us climb the charts. They follow it day to day – and the record” – ‘Revelator,’ set for release on Tuesday, June 7 – hasn’t even come out yet.”This is basically the reaction Tedeschi was hoping for when she put together the new group – only she was hoping for an audience broader than those who shared her last name. Tedeschi and Trucks were thinking big when they teamed up for their co-venture. They were thinking big in terms of the music: the Tedeschi Trucks Band – which is on its first major U.S. tour, and makes its local debut Saturday, June 4, at the Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest – counts 11 members, including a three-piece horn section. And they have grand visions for what the band can achieve in popularity.”We want to show people we’re serious,” Tedeschi said. “We’re trying to bring this to a different level. We’re hopeful that it does get big.”The band is even thinking beyond its own success. From the way Tedeschi speaks, they seem intent on serving as a model for other groups – in the music, in the way to put a band together, in the manner they present themselves to an audience.”I think people have gotten off track,” Tedeschi – who, at 40, is nine years older than her husband – said, of popular music in general. “The entertainer aspect has taken over. It’s about the costumes, not the music. We’re not trying to bring fluff to people. We want music that moves you and makes you feel something. And we want to show people you can really do this because you love it.”Tedeschi and Trucks teamed up as a musical unit before, touring as the Soul Stew Revival (and making an appearance, in 2007, at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival). But at the time they each kept their own bands going, and their children – Charlie, named for guitarist Charlie Christian and bassist Charles Mingus; and Sofia Naima, whose middle name comes from a John Coltrane tune – were very young. The two never recorded an album as Soul Stew Revival, and didn’t write new material specifically for the group.”That was sort of placed together in a hurry,” Tedeschi said. “It wasn’t tight.”The new project has been thought through; Tedeschi says they are in this for the long term. “We’ve talked about it, honestly, for 10 years,” Tedeschi said.The Tedeschi Trucks Band, in fact, could be seen as having been in the works since the two first met, in 1999. Tedeschi was opening for the Allman Brothers Band at New Orleans’ Saenger Theatre; it was just around the time when Trucks, the teenage nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, had joined the group. During her sound check, Tedeschi spotted Derek and some other Brothers listening intently. “I got nervous. I thought, ‘What are they doing there?’ Their presence there was a big statement,” Tedeschi recalled.Tedeschi and Trucks were introduced, and based on their shared tastes in music, built a relationship. “We knew we’d get along,” Tedeschi said. “We both loved John Lee Hooker, Coltrane, Miles.”The following day, Trucks began to test how adventurous Tedeschi’s tastes could be. He played DVDs of Sun Ra, among the more out-there characters in jazz, and of Liberace. “They said they’d freak me out with something off the normal path, a little more flamboyant,” Tedeschi said. “But both were very talented musicians, very serious musicians.” To return the favor, Tedeschi turned Trucks on to Chicago bluesman Magic Sam.The mutual appreciation of music turned into a friendship, then a romance, with music remaining at the center. “He helped educate me about qawwali” – a form of Pakistani devotional music – “Indian classical music. It was an education after getting a musical education,” said Tedeschi, who had earned a degree from Berklee College of Music, in her native Boston. “It was like a graduate degree.”In December 2001, the couple were married. And while they entertained ideas of forming a band together – and played on one another’s albums – other things got in the way. Their respective bands were doing well; they had kids; Trucks got offered a spot in Eric Clapton’s group, to go with his Allman Brothers gig and his own band. “We could make babies, but we could never make an album. It just never seemed to be the right time,” Tedeschi said. “I’m busy with my band, with the kids. But not like he’s busy, with Clapton and the Allman Brothers.”But things began to change. The Clapton gig ended; the Allman slowed down some. More than anything, they began to feel the pain from the changes in the music business.”We did great, but the industry was hard,” Tedeschi said. “Derek’s last album should have sold at least a million records, but it didn’t. The only way to play music is to tour, And for Derek and I, with the kids, that’s really hard. But now, if we combine forces, it’s fun, and maybe we can take this even further.”The two built a studio, and spent even more time building their band. They took players they knew well – Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge, and his offstage brother, Kofi, on keyboards and flute; Mike Mattison, vocalist from the Derek Trucks Band – and then carefully chose the rest of the ensemble based on musicianship and personal chemistry.”It’s not just Derek and I who are the strength. It’s everybody,” Tedeschi said. “We have two great drummers” – Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson – “and that’s the foundation of the band. The magic of this band is, everybody loves each other. It’s not just a paycheck.”Trucks comes off as a soft-spoken person who prefers to be just out of the spotlight; he doesn’t sing. But Tedeschi said Trucks is the bandleader, never mind that she is the singer, the lone woman in the group, and has her name first on the marquee.”He’s such a natural bandleader. He’s an eloquent communicator – great at talking to people, getting the best out of musicians. He’s mellow, but intense,” she said. “So I’m happy to step down from that role. He’s sensitive to everybody’s needs. It’s natural that he’s our music director. He can pull everybody together.”Tedeschi has had to make some musical adjustments, but they have been painless. The songs she played in her own band, for instance, had dark, minor blues tones, and sometimes touched on political topics. The music on “Revelator” is more soul-oriented, a little brighter. “With Derek it’s, Let’s bring the joy out, the positive energy. That’s what people need right now,” she said.Tedeschi has also had to ease off on her soloing on guitar. On “Revelator,” she plays only rhythm guitar; in performance, she plays three or four solos.”With Derek, I don’t need to play more, He’s so talented,” she said. “He’ll look at me and say, ‘OK, solo,’ and I’ll say, ‘What?!'”The Tedeschi Trucks Band played its first few gigs late last year, and followed earlier this spring with shows in Australia and New Zealand. Tedeschi believes the band is poised to accomplish what it has set out to do; namely, become a bigger act. She told me there were a few major TV appearances in the works; sure enough, a week later, the band was featured on “The Tonight Show.””We could have kept doing our own thing and been fine. But this is a chance to push ourselves, show people we can conquer everything together,” she said. “We’re acting like we’re starting over again.”firstname.lastname@example.org
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