The Eric and Derek guitar show comes to the Double D | AspenTimes.com
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The Eric and Derek guitar show comes to the Double D

Stewart Oksenhorn

Neither Eric Johnson nor Derek Trucks seem to have had much trouble mastering the guitar.

Johnson, a native of Austin, Texas, was in a local Top 40 band, The Sounds of Life, by the time he was in his early teens. In his mid-teens, in a band led by drummer Vince Mariani, Johnson discovered the music being played by Jimi Hendrix and Cream and began finding his own blues-rock sound. His playing was good enough to prompt fellow Texas guitarist Johnny Winters to say, “I remember wishing I could have played like that at that age.”

In terms of precociousness, Trucks may have Johnson beat. Trucks, now 21, started playing electric slide guitar when he was 9, and within months was playing gigs around his native Jacksonville, Fla. By the time he was 13, Trucks had formed his own touring band; by his mid-teens, he was not only playing club gigs across the country, but had made guest appearances with Bob Dylan and Buddy Guy.

Neither Johnson nor Trucks stopped their artistic or career development in their teens. Johnson went on to form the Electromagnets, a jazz-fusion band of some note, and did session work with the likes of Cat Stevens and Carol King. In 1984, he released his solo debut recording, “Tones,” and earned a Grammy nomination. Johnson hit the big time with the follow-up, “Ah Via Musicom,” which turned the unprecedented feat of landing three instrumental songs in the top 10. The album earned Johnson solid guitar god status: He was featured on the cover of Guitar Player magazine, and was named their Guitarist of the Year four years running; Musician magazine placed Johnson among the 100 greatest guitarists of the 20th century.

Trucks, too, has shown a serious commitment to developing his artistry. “The Derek Trucks Band,” the 1998 debut by Trucks’ quartet, featured a host of jazz classics by Miles Davis and John Coltrane, made unique by the sound of Trucks’ slide guitar. The following year, the Trucks Band released “Out of the Madness,” which covered blues tunes by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Son House. Both albums also featured examples of the traditional Indian music that Trucks loves.

In 1999, Trucks joined the Allman Brothers Band, an outfit co-founded by his uncle, drummer Butch Trucks. Like Johnson, Trucks has earned his share of accolades; Guitar One magazine called Trucks the best young/new talent, and one of the top five slide guitarists, in the company of Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and former Allman Brothers Band member Warren Haynes.

Tonight, the Double Diamond has a double bill featuring both Johnson and Trucks. Johnson performs with his latest group, Alien Love Child, a trio featuring bassist Chris Maresh and drummer Bill Maddox. The group, formed in Austin when Johnson was recording his “Venus Isle” CD in the mid-’90s, released its debut CD, “Live and Beyond,” late last year.

Trucks performs with the newest incarnation of his band. Keyboardist-flutist Kofi Burbridge has replaced original member Bill McKay. Also new to the band is singer-percussionist Javier Colon. Burbridge and Colon round out a quintet that includes bassist Todd Smallie, drummer Yonrico Scott and Trucks.


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