The day after helping to anchor a crackerjack band backing the Gregg Allman tribute at the Fox Theatre, Chuck Leavell headed to one place: his masseuse.
Who can blame him after expertly pounding a keyboard for the four-hour live marathon — not to mention the weeks’ worth of rehearsals leading to last Friday’s all-star event?
Now the Macon resident will cruise back to Atlanta this weekend and will again share a stage with Allman, as well as Randall Bramblett, Jimmy Hall, Robert McDuffie, Michelle Malone and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
The event — “Celebrating Georgia with Chuck Leavell and Friends” — will take over Symphony Hall Saturday night and give the participants the opportunity to spotlight the soul of Georgia music.
Calling earlier this week from his car, the good-natured Leavell provided some insight about what to expect from the show.
On how the event came to fruition:
“My wife, Rose Lane, was chairperson of the Georgia Humanities Council program called New Harmonies, a program sponsored by the Smithsonian. Their display about roots music went around the state for two years in small cities. Then the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Humanities Council said, ‘We’re coming to the end of this two-year run and we want to do a big event in Atlanta to celebrate the success of it,’ and asked me to put it together. I recruited Randall and reached out to Jimmy Hall. I called Gregg and was kind of surprised he said yes since I knew he was on tour. They had to rearrange a date for him, but he was willing to do that to be part of this. Then I called Michelle Malone (Leavell has played on a couple of her records) and she was into it as well.”
On the format of the show:
“The core band will do some songs off my recent record, a blues tribute (‘Back to the Woods: A Tribute to the Pioneers of Blues Piano’). Then Randall will do a couple of songs, Robert McDuffie and I will do some duets — he’s also going to perform with the ASO on his own and then they’ll do a couple of pieces — and then the rest of the guests will come out.”
On the Otis Redding tribute during the show:
“The special guests will participate in that and the ASO. We’re going to have four songs. I don’t want to tip the hat of which Otis songs we’ll be doing, but Gregg, I know, will participate in the encore.”
“I chose Otis because I recalled an event for the Redding Foundation that took place at the Grand Opera House in Macon with the Macon Orchestra, and I thought, ‘We could do that.’ And also because they’re calling this — and it is — an event focusing on Georgia music and 80 percent of the show will be Georgia music. Certainly Otis is one of the main icons of our state.”
On playing with orchestras:
“This is not the first time I’ve played with orchestras. Even going way back to the Gregg Allman tour of ‘74, we had a 13-piece string section that toured with us. And during my time with Clapton for ‘24 Nights’ (Clapton’s 1991 concert run at London’s Royal Albert Hall), six were with London Symphony. It’s always enjoyable. What you find is that these orchestras tend to be focused on classical music, so when they get to play rock ‘n’ roll, they see it as something fun.”
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