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Published: 2015/03/08
by Derek Halsey

Derek Trucks Shares Impromptu Improv Highlights

“We were having such a good time, and then the owner just started bringing bottles of wine out and extra food.”

While there are obviously some formidable axe masters roaming the planet as we speak, with hopefully a young and brilliant musician or two yet to surface, Derek Trucks is arguably one of the best guitarists on the scene right now. Powerful yet unselfish onstage, Trucks is about the music and decidedly not about being somebody’s guitar god. His ability to take the slide guitar to stratospheric levels is legendary, even though he is just in his early 30s.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB), featuring his wife Susan Tedeschi and nine other amazing artists, is hitting its stride as an open-minded unit that is ever-evolving and striving to reach new heights. Their latest album Made Up Mind is an excellent testament to the group’s talent.

Trucks was also a member of the legendary Allman Brothers Band until that group performed its final shows in October 2014.

I recently spoke with Trucks about some of the more memorable impromptu throwdowns that he has experienced during his time as a professional musician. This first anecdote happened a few years ago when Trucks and his wife found themselves sharing some space with a music legend during a show by the Allman Brothers Band.

“Susan and I were in Chicago when I was doing a show with the Allman Brothers and we were sitting backstage in the green room,” says Trucks. “(Blues pianist) Pinetop Perkins was sitting in with the Allmans and he came backstage between sets and there was an old upright piano in the green room. It was just me and Susan kind of quietly sitting there. Pinetop sits down and he just starts playing. Fifteen minutes later, he has gone through two or three tunes. Every once in a while, Susan would chime in and sing with him. But, it was just so impromptu, and the fact that we were upstairs in the Chicago Theater, in Chicago, with this old upright piano and Pinetop is pushing 90 years old. That was a special moment.”

After marrying Tedeschi and settling down as a family man with two kids to raise, Trucks decided to build a studio in his home in Jacksonville, Florida. He has used that studio space to collaborate with many impressive artists.

“We’ve been fortunate to play with some of our heroes and some of the best musicians on Earth,” says Trucks. “We’ve had chances to just hang and play with them. Having Herbie Hancock down to our house, some of the jams that went on there were pretty staggering. Whenever those things happen, you realize how fortunate you are to be doing it. Getting to play with Les Paul backstage before the Carnegie Hall show, stuff like that is bucket list shit. It’s music, man. That’s the beauty of it. When you’re playing together, it is a level playing field. And, obviously with somebody like Herbie, he can go in any direction he wants. But, when there is mutual respect and you’re playing music together, it’s a journey that you’re on and everybody is listening and contributing and that is when it is good.”

Trucks is no stranger to newgrass, jamgrass and progressive roots music as it is a part of the many genres that have influenced him over the years. In September of 2014, for example, the TTB held court at the famed Beacon Theatre in NYC and during one show Dobro legend Jerry Douglas joined the band for a five-song acoustic set [You will find a wonderful video of an inspired backstage collaboration above].

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