Derek Trucks on reinventing the Tedeschi Trucks Band

The Tedeschi Trucks Band, pictured here at Pasaquan, will play two nights at the Fox Theatre on July 15-16.

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The Tedeschi Trucks Band, pictured here at Pasaquan, will play two nights at the Fox Theatre on July 15-16.

The band will release four new albums this year.

For the Tedeschi Trucks Band, the pandemic period is likely to stand as a key moment in what has already been an auspicious career for the talented 12-person unit.

In February 2019, keyboardist, flautist and songwriter Kofi Burbridge died from complications related to a 2017 heart attack, just as the band’s fourth album, “Signs,” was released.

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Kofi Burbridge was renowned for his keyboard and flute playing. He spent many years performing with Derek Trucks. Burbridge died in Atlanta in 2019. Photo: Josh Brick

Kofi Burbridge was renowned for his keyboard and flute playing. He spent many years performing with Derek Trucks. Burbridge died in Atlanta in 2019. Photo: Josh Brick

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Kofi Burbridge was renowned for his keyboard and flute playing. He spent many years performing with Derek Trucks. Burbridge died in Atlanta in 2019. Photo: Josh Brick

The band pushed ahead and went on tour with keyboardist/singer Gabe Dixon coming on board and Brandon Boone replacing bassist Tim Lefebvre, who left the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2018. The band even managed to join forces with guitarists Trey Anastasio (from Phish) and Doyle Bramhall II in August 2019 to perform the classic Derek & the Dominos album “Layla” at the LOCKN’ Festival. That performance was released last year as “Layla Revisited: Live From LOCKN’.”

But going into 2020, guitarist Derek Trucks and singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi felt it was time to take stock of the band.

“After we lost Kofi, it was such a blow to the band, obviously,” Trucks said in an early June phone interview. “We feel like a good part of the heart (was lost), he was such a big part of our lives.

“This is kind of wild timing, but we had planned to take March, April, May and some of June off,” he said. “It was to just do a hard reset after Kofi and just take some time off and think about what we wanted to do, if we wanted to pivot. We couldn’t just keep rolling like nothing had happened.”

As it turned out, of course, the pandemic hit that March and the three-month break turned into a pause from touring the extended well into 2021. And the band organically reinvented itself while making what is surely one of the most audacious musical statements in rock history — a series of four musically and thematically linked albums, all titled under the banner of “I Am The Moon.” They will each be released about a month apart this summer. The first of those albums, “I Am The Moon – 1. Crescent,” arrived on June 3.

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Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi will lead the Tedeschi Trucks Band into the Fox Theatre on July 15 and 16. Photo: Stuart Levine

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi will lead the Tedeschi Trucks Band into the Fox Theatre on July 15 and 16. Photo: Stuart Levine

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Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi will lead the Tedeschi Trucks Band into the Fox Theatre on July 15 and 16. Photo: Stuart Levine

With Dixon and drummer Tyler Greenwell joining Trucks, Tedeschi and vocalist Mike Mattison as key songwriters, a new energy emerged as writing for the albums began.

“It’s a different band,” Trucks said. “I mean, obviously, the first 10 years of it, I mean, there’s incredible music and stuff that’s just going to be the center of what we do, but I really do feel like it’s a different chapter, for sure.”

The first chapter opened in 2010 when husband and wife Trucks and Tedeschi merged their careers (Trucks leading his own Derek Trucks Band while playing in the Allman Brothers Band and in Eric Clapton’s band, while Tedeschi was a solo artist) to create the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which today also includes drummer Isaac Eady, Kebbi Williams (saxophone), Erphraim Owens (trumpet), Elizabeth Lea (trombone) and harmony vocalists Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour.

The band has close ties to Atlanta as numerous band members and crew call Atlanta home, including Williams, Greenwell, Mattison, Rivers and Boone. Williams has an arts space in the West End called Gallery 992 and hosts an annual charity event, Music in the Park.

Drawing on their influences in rock, blues, soul, country and jazz, the first four Tedeschi Trucks Band studio albums deftly blended those styles into a cohesive whole with a mix of rockers and ballads that were finely crafted and played with finesse and fire.

Now “I Am The Moon” seems certain to elevate the Tedeschi Trucks Band into any conversation about rock’s best bands.

The seeds for the four-album project were planted not long after the LOCKN’ performance of “Layla” when singer Mike Mattison noted he’d read the 12th century poem by Nizami Ganjavi called “Layla and Majnun,” which inspired the original “Layla” album and its theme of a man loving a woman he can’t have.

Mattison saw some other perspectives that might be worth exploring in the poem.

“He just threw out ‘You know, I think it would be interesting, after re-reading the poem, it would be interesting (to consider) what did Layla think about this? What would be her perspective of the songs?’” Trucks recalled. “And immediately the light bulb went off.”

The band members dove in, and over the next several months, the 24 songs on the four “I Am The Moon” albums emerged.

Together the albums provide a rich musical banquet. The band’s soul influence courses through the lovely ballads “Hear My Dear” and “I Am The Moon” and the rousing “Ain’t That Something.” The band’s Southern roots shine through on the richly melodic blues-tinged ballad “Rainy Day” and the easy-going “Soul Sweet Song.” Country and gospel collide nicely on the frisky “So Long Savior.” The instrumental prowess of Trucks (widely considered the finest slide guitarist going today) and the rest of the band is showcased on “Gravity” and the free-wheeling extended instrumental “Pasaquan.” (The group’s recent press photos and full album video shoot were filmed at the late Eddie Owens Martin’s famed art environment Pasaquan in Buena Vista.)

The Tedeschi Trucks Band figure to change up their set lists from show to show as the group headlines their Wheels of Soul tour this summer.

“We’re not going to play any of the new material before each record is released, and only the first one is out,” Trucks said. “So we’ll definitely play some of the material from the first record of the four that are coming out. Then I think midway through the ‘Wheels of Soul,’ the second album will come out so we’ll probably sprinkle in a few off those, too.”


CONCERT PREVIEW

Tedeschi Trucks Band with Los Lobos

7:30 p.m. July 15-16. $29-$150. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 855-285-8499, foxtheatre.org.