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Go back to December 31, 2008 when guitarist Derek Trucks and his wife, singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, were preparing to ring in the New Year. Married since 1999, these two soulmates, equally steeped in the musical roots of blues, jazz, and gospel, had finally decided the time was right to set aside their successful solo careers and commit to a new band melding their vision and talent. It wasn’t the first time they had collaborated; they had shared a stage countless times and traded album guest appearances, all while starting a family together. But on that night, hitting the stage together with members of the Derek Trucks Band and a guest horn section they heard the future.
Two years later, the couple debuted Tedeschi Trucks Band. The nation’s economy was heading into recession. The popular music landscape was filled with technological theatrics and auto-tuned singers. And here were Tedeschi and Trucks along with their (then) 8-member band, loading up two tour buses and hitting the road with a sound that defied conventional genre boundaries or traditional labels; a gypsy caravan on the rock-and-roll highway. To call it ambitious was an understatement.
In pursuit of their ideal sound driven by world class musicianship, Tedeschi and Trucks put together a musical collaborative like no other, flying in the face of any practical or economic considerations. There have been evolutionary changes to the band along the way, but the freight-train force of veteran drummers J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell were there from the start, along with two brilliant Trucks Band veterans to amplify the rhythm section: Kofi Burbridge with his prodigious talent on keys and flute, and Mike Mattison, with his dynamic vocals and songwriting skills. A 3-piece horn section brought on for studio work proved indispensable to the group’s sound and became a permanent addition – now composed of Kebbi Williams’ intergalactic saxophone, Ephraim Owens on trumpet and Elizabeth Lea on trombone. Industry-renowned bassist Tim Lefebvre (David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Sting) joined in 2013, and two years later a third incredible voice, Alecia Chakour, was added to the background vocals provided by Mark Rivers and Mattison; each more than capable of delivering a stirring turn as a lead vocalist.
On the road for upwards of 200 days a year, the TTB family has grown strong, bonding over backyard BBQs and long bus rides, all the while developing a growing repertoire of original material and paying homage to an extensive canon of influences ranging from Sly & the Family Stone, Miles Davis and George Jones to Joe Cocker, Nina Simone, and even Indian sarod master Ali Akbar Khan. Embracing improvisation over convention, and set lists rarely repeated, the collective is adept at exploring almost any musical territory. The genuine respect within its ranks is evident on stage. Trucks’ masterful guitar skills and Tedeschi’s soaring vocals and bluesy guitar shine but don’t overpower the breadth of talent, happily yielding the spotlight as needed in service of what the song deserves.
Trucks and Tedeschi’s uncompromising vision has paid off. Now 12-members strong, and with a catalog of five albums and nearly a decade of steady touring in the U.S. and abroad, Tedeschi Trucks Band carries a distinguished reputation earned from both audiences and critics as one of the premier live bands in the world. Sold-out multi-night runs at venerable venues like the Beacon Theatre, Ryman Auditorium and Red Rocks Amphitheater are a testament to the can’t-miss concert experience fans have come to anticipate. The band’s own “Wheels of Soul” tour has become a sought-after summer experience from promoters across the country, bringing TTB’s unique stew of upbeat rock and soul together on stage with a slew of guests, sit ins, and supporting bands that have included the late Sharon Jones, Los Lobos and most recently The Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna. 2018 will also mark the sixth year for the TTB-curated Sunshine Music Festival, hosted each January in their home state of Florida.
TTB’s most recent CD/film release, Live From The Fox Oakland (2017) was nominated for a Grammy and follows a quartet of critically-hailed and commercially successful albums, including the Grammy-winning debut, Revelator (2011) and Let Me Get By (2016), called “one of the great records of the year” by the Associated Press. The film documents the progress the band has made since its inception, while also showcasing its endless potential to bring out the best in each other every night in any musical direction they choose. It’s clear that the leaders have no intention of slowing down now. As Trucks remarked to Mark Maron on his WTF podcast featured in the film, “I haven’t found this band’s ceiling yet.” For Tedeschi Trucks Band, there may not be one.