Meet The Parents: Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks (Relix Revisited: 2003)
One may argue that it is easy for him to make such an assertion at age 23 while simultaneously holding a high-profile, lucrative gig in the Allman Brothers Band. Still, it is important to recognize that he has been on the road for more than a dozen years. Plus one does get the sense that even if he were not in the ABB he would be quite willing to push that ethos to the brink. Derek’s musical vision is paramount. Thus when Kofi Burbridge agreed to join the group, Trucks purchased him a Clavinet (and later a B-3). Burbridge recalls,“He bought it and said,‘Here take this, it’s yours.’ No one had done that to me in my career. Never had that happened and my reaction was that this guy must be really serious about his sound.” Burbridge has gone on to make significant contributions to the DTB, particularly through his songwriting, and he has a hand in the majority of the tracks that appear on Joyful Noise (one of the standouts, “Like Anyone Else,” is a solo Kofi composition, his first with lyrics).
Yonrico Scott had reached a similar conclusion when he signed on a few years prior to Burbridge. A veteran of Whitney Houston and Peabo Bryson’s touring bands, Scott had also manned the Broadway orchestra pits for The Wiz, Dreamgirls and 5 Guys Named Moe (after that play’s NYC run, he joined the national company as well). Yet with Trucks, he saw talent and intent (“I could tell he was anointed”), as well as an opportunity to take an active role in the young group’s musical direction. As a result, he laughs, “I went from playing in Madison Square Garden to playing in 50-seat clubs.”
Scott had reason to reassess his involvement following a near-fatal heart attack on October 21, 2000. “I started feeling bad, like I had heartburn. This was a few days before we were about to leave and go on tour. So I took a nap, drove myself to the hospital and then I woke up twelve days later with a zipper down the middle of my chest. I had a dissecting aortic aneurysm and the doctors said if I was any younger or any older I wouldn’t have made it. If the angle of the tear was any different, I wouldn’t have made it. If I was ten minutes late I wouldn’t have made it. But if I left the planet last year when I was sick I would have been happy knowing I did some good work. There’s not anything I’m ashamed of musically.”
Following Scott’s health crisis the band also weathered the departure of vocalist Javier Colon. Colon had taken over for Bill McKay (now with Leftover Salmon) and carried the band’s sound further away from a blues base into the realm of soul. Eventually, this approach also proved confining (albeit with a sweet falsetto). Colon elected to leave the group for a solo career during the initial Joyful Noise recording sessions, which freed the band to underscore its affinity for world music through the addition of guest vocalists Solomon Burke, Ruben Blades, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Susan Tedeschi.
Current DTB vocalist Mike Mattison, hailed for his facility with the styles of both predecessors, seemed destined to join the group. In the spring of 2002, Derek received independent recommendations and sample discs on the same day from John Snyder and Craig Street, the two producers who have worked with him over the years. Later, while riding on the subway, Trucks thought he recognized a face yet he couldn’t immediately place it. Then he blurted out the name of the prospective singer and Mike responded. “It was too weird—it was many random occurrences stacked on top of each other. Then he came in and the vibes were amazing and the vocals were great, so we’re rolling with it.”
This unique meeting calls to mind the elliptical mysticism of Col. Bruce Hampton, whose band the Aquarium Rescue Unit may well be the DTB’s musical and spiritual forebear. In some respect the lineage is direct through Burbridge, older brother to ARU founding bassist Oteil, who did a stint with that group during its final incarnation. Meanwhile, Scott had logged some time with Hampton’s post-ARU project, the Fiji Mariners. In addition, Todd Smallie, who joined Derek on bass in 1994, came to the band via an open audition facilitated by his association with ARU alums Jimmy Herring and Jeff Sipe (Smallie retains his enthusiasm for the pair— “Those guys are constantly exploring and to watch them have that fire is so inspiring to me as a young musician”).
Smallie also recalls that the Colonel’s name was often invoked when the band began to burst beyond its roots in the mid ‘90s, losing some of its original audience in the process. “In the transition we ran a lot of people out of the blues clubs.We used to say we’d given them some Bruce Hampton music and lost them.We’d say we Hampmotized them.”
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