Derek Trucks Band: Already Free (CD review)

Derek Trucks possesses one of the most expressive, intriguing and pliable instrumental voices of any genre.

He’s a young but already deeply accomplished musician with great, reliable instincts, and an impressive ability to adapt to nearly any musical context – blues, rock, R&B, jazz, gospel, funk, Middle Eastern forms.

Expectations are that his just-released Already Free will connect, in a major way, with old fans as well as those who have become acquainted with the former child prodigy through his recent playing with the likes of Eric Clapton, Santana, and McCoy Tyner.

derek-trucks-already-free3

Here’s my review, as published in Las Vegas City Life.

Below is the full text:

Derek Trucks Band

Already Free (Sony Legacy)

Derek Trucks’ playing on bottleneck-slide guitar is a thing of beauty — sometimes, sweet, sometimes salty, an instrumental voice that’s remarkably expressive. That sound, a welcome guest on recent tours and recordings by everyone from Eric Clapton to jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, is front and center on Already Free.

Allman Brothers guitarist Trucks, nephew of Allmans drummer Butch Trucks, grew up on that band’s brand of hard-grooving Southern rock ‘n’ soul, and for his most accomplished studio recording yet, he successfully carries on the tradition. The sound is decidedly retro and warmly familiar, although Indian instruments spice the textures on the acoustic “Back Where I Started,” with Trucks’ wife Susan Tedeschi singing, and Big Maybelle’s “I Know.”

Doyle Bramhall II guests on the Southern-fried R&B of “Maybe This Time.” Raspy voiced singer DTB Mike Mattison effectively leads the attack on most other tunes, including a version of Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood” that’s all slow-simmering dirty boogie. “These Days is Almost Gone,” with Kofi Burbridge’s churchy organ underscoring soulful backing vocals and rising horns, sounds like a Saturday night in the Southland bumping into Sunday morning. Feels just right.


Jazz Times: Best of 2008 – Charles Lloyd, Bennie Maupin, More

Rabo de Nube, a 2007 live recording by Charles Lloyd’s quartet, tops the list of 2008 critics’ picks in Jazz Times. lloydFor the CD, documenting the veteran saxophonist’s 7oth-birthday concert in Basel, Switzerland, he was joined by pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.

The Top 10 highest vote-getters in the poll include three – by Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson and Anat Cohen – that made it onto my own list, published online at Jazzhouse (Jazz Journalists Association) and in print at Las Vegas City Life.

The remainder of the Jazz Times top 10:

  • Bennie Maupin, Quartet, Early Reflections
  • Joe Lovano, Symphonica
  • Pat Metheny, Day Trip
  • Dave Holland Sextet, Pass It On
  • Bill Frisell, History, Mystery
  • Carla Bley Big Band, Appearing Nightly
  • Cassandra Wilson, Loverly
  • Various Artists, Miles From India
  • Anat Cohen, Notes From the Village

For the complete list of the top 50, click here

More:

The year-end round-up: “The year started off with a big surprise in the music industry: Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters (Verve) broke out of the jazz category and won Album of the Year at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.” The rest

Complete critics’ picks

Jazz Times Readers’ Poll results

Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol. 1

Sonny Rollins’ latest CD, Road Shows, Vol. 1, has gained loads of critical acclaim and landed on more than a jazz critics’ year-end lists.

sonny-rollins1And for good reason: The disc captures the great saxophonist in full flight, playing at the peak of his considerable powers.

Click here to read my review, published in Las Vegas City Life.

Or read the text, below:

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Sonny Rollins

Road Shows, Vol. 1

(Doxy)

It’s not overstating the case to call Sonny Rollins one of the last living jazz giants. Even on the down slide to 80, the tenor saxophonist continues to roam the earth, playing every solo as if it were his last, threatening to turn every show into an event, the kind where listeners are likely to learn something new about the art of jazz, and discover something unexpected about the playing of a monster improviser who has been thrilling audiences since making his breakthrough in the early ’50s with the likes of Miles and Monk.

That said, too many of Rollins’ studio recordings have been subpar – failed attempts to recreate the live vibe. Not so with Road Shows, Vol. 1, culled in part from concert recordings made by Rollins devotee Carl Smith. Here, in live performances caught between 1980 and 2007, Rollins absolutely romps. His brawny horn digs deep during a long, unaccompanied section in “Easy Living” and turns alternately tender and questioning for a bracing version of “Some Enchanted Evening,” with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes, performed last year at Carnegie Hall.

He stretches to the breaking point on his signature blues tune, “Tenor Madness,” rocks a calypso groove on his “Nice Lady,” and opens up the ballad “More Than You Know,” even slipping in a snippet of a Christmas melody. Undeniably brilliant.

Susan Tedeschi (slight return)

Susan Tedeschi - Back to the River

As promised, here’s more about fast-rising singer and blues guitarist Tedeschi, who’s joining slide-guitar wizard Derek Trucks for a Soul Stew Revival show Dec. 29 at Tampa Theatre. Yes, they’re married to each other.

Great new tunes from Susan Tedeschi, on her Back to the River CD.

Click here to read my review at Las Vegas City Life, or see the full text below.

Susan Tedeschi

Back to the River (Verve Forecast)

“Revolutionize Your Soul,” arriving about two-thirds through Boston-born singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi’s latest CD, is a real peak, a feel-good mixture of blues, R&B and gospel. Riding a rising tide of horns, she applies gritty vocals — think early Bonnie Raitt — to a tale of spiritual (albeit non-religious) renewal, and lets husband Derek Trucks in for a few bars of slide-guitar scorch. The tune’s crescendo is followed by a laidback chill-out section.

That’s just one of the rootsy treats on a set of music, including catchy first single “True,” that is deeply bluesy but accessible enough to suggest hot prospects for a crossover.

Tedeschi, whose vocals sound significantly more mature and lived-in than ever, branches out this time, with songwriting credits on 10 of the 11 tracks here. She collaborated with Trucks on the Southern-fried psychedelic soul of “Butterfly,” another track bolstered by the latter’s stinging lines, and worked with Gary Louris on the rangy “Learning the Hard Way,” which variously hints at Santana and pop-Americana a la The Jayhawks.

A tricky fuzz-guitar line anchors the swampy funk of Allen Toussaint’s “There’s a Break in the Road,” splashed with electric piano and horns. Tedeschi, sounding seriously re-energized, dives deep on Back to the River, handily.

(This post originally appeared on my OTHER blog, ScribeLife)