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Published: 2005/06/30
by Jesse Jarnow

Derek Trucks Band, Rocks Off Boat Cruise, NYC- 6/22

NYC ROLL-TOP: Trucks Across the Water

Derek Trucks finds himself in an interesting place as a musician. On Wednesday night, that place manifested itself physically, on a boat, with $40 tickets ($50 day of show, had it not already sold out), and a beguiling mix of professional-age (and older!) fans come to see a 20something Buddha-like reincarnation of a flaxen-haired rock deity. Trucks isn't, of course. He is Buddha-like, however, and does play an apple red Gibson SG with an authority that belies his years. In an age where genuine guitar heroes seem to have gone the way of the Jedi (with marginally less dismemberment), Trucks is something to smile about.

What crammed the crowd onto the Rocks Off boat cruise down the Hudson River off western Manhattan was Trucks' magnetic tone — fat and rich with glassy vibrato — which is as pure an embodiment of all that is Good and Right about rock guitar solos as one is likely to find. Trucks is filled with Southern modesty to begin with (part of the appeal, I think), so the fact that the band was hidden under the overhanging upper deck was immaterial. The views were more interesting elsewhere, anyway. Trucks' guitar cut through the speakers on the stern and the bow as Manhattan — tranquil when observed from a slight distance — sailed by. Despite the fact that it's often hard to watch the acts (at least on their larger Temptress boat), Rocks Off's floating club offers perhaps the best sightlines "in" the city.

Joined by Trucks' missus — blues singer Susan Tedeschi — the Trucks Band were their usual tasteful selves, playing a mix of groovy R & B, blues, and soul. As always, though, Trucks' lines transcended the changes, using his slide to find the spaces between the chords. Dramatic vibrato is part of the cultural order of the day (see most of the finalists of American Idol), and Trucks and his slide are deeply tuned in — another subconscious part of his appeal, perhaps.

Trucks' uncle — Allman Brothers drummer Butch — has long been fond of saying that young Derek is going beyond what Brother Duane was beginning to glimpse when he died in 1971. When Trucks sinks his teeth into Out jazz numbers, as he did during "My Favorite Things," which closed the first set, he really made a case. Nothin' like a standard to show what a fella can do. Trucks' take was more fluidly aggressive than one might expect from him. Though perhaps a click too fast for comfort, Trucks' played in tight flurries that cascaded thickly into melodic arcs. It was more decidedly rock than jazz, but more power to Trucks. Hopefully, he will continue to develop his bop and free chops to the point of cutting a few sides.

But, then, who knows how far out his fans will follow him? They did get on a boat, though, which is an encouraging sign. Still, Trucks has developed himself a clientele who might not be so receptive if the Buddha starts preaching the word of Sun Ra or Archie Shepp. But Trucks is too modest to preach. For now, though, they’re getting the bread and butter (which is nothing to sneeze at) and eating it right up. Encoring with the warhorse of Bobby "Blue" Bland’s "Turn On Your Lovelight" sandwiched inside Ralph Bass and Sonny Thompson’s "Yield Not To Temptation" (established as a Zambi standard by Col. Bruce Hampton and the first Aquarium Rescue Unit), the Trucks Band played well into the dock, where the crowd found themselves, slightly dazed and wandering back into Hell’s Kitchen.

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