BluesWax Sittin' In With Derek Trucks
By Bob Putignano

Catching up with Derek Trucks at the Montreal Jazz Festival, 2007. The extremely gifted and multi genre guitarist Derek Trucks is the nephew of the Allman Brothers' drummer Butch Trucks, who is the proud originator of his commanding slide guitar playing which bears some similarity to the late great Duane Allman, plus much more, as Derek and his cohorts cover a wide range of styles from progressive blues, funky soul, to classic rock plus a dose of deep rooted jazz. It is obvious that Derek draws from blues players like Elmore James and Duane Allman who have both been a heavy influence on Trucks' slide guitar playing, as have (non guitar playing) jazz players like Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Coltrane, plus the funky soul cats like King Curtis and Curtis Mayfield.

Trucks has been on the road (escorted by his Dad) since he was nine years old, and shared stages and sat in with rock blues greats like Buddy Guy and the Allman Brothers Band by the time he was twelve. Trucks began his professional career playing with blues bands around his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., and formed his own group while he was in high school. Prior to Derek's twentieth birthday, Trucks could be found jamming with the likes of Stephen Stills, Joe Walsh, and Bob Dylan.

The Derek Trucks Band members range in age from their twenties to their forties, and released their self-titled debut album in 1997 on Landslide Records. 'Out of the Madness' was next in late 1998. Since that time, they have released 'Joyful Noise' (2002), 'Soul Serenade' (2003), 'Live at Georgia Theatre' (2004) and 'Songlines' in 2006, all of which show continued growth in his performance and dynamic guitar explorations with incredible musicianship. Derek also has plans to record a new CD in the fall of 2007, with a potential release forthcoming in early to mid part of 2008. Rarely have we seen a new talent develop so quickly and consistently. The future looks extremely bright for a still very young Derek, (who just turned twenty-eight) as Trucks exemplifies a 'no boundaries' approach in his selection of material, song writing, and his very impressive guitar playing. I am certain that touring with both Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers band have accelerated his playing abilities, but one must not take away from Derek's inner insatiable quest to seek out and learn from a wide array of musicians music, as during previous conversations with Derek- I cannot believe the depth of his knowledge of players of a multitude of genre's from both current and past eras.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Derek at the Montreal Jazz Festival on the Fourth of July (2007), after his sound-check, for his following performance at the Spectrum Theater, which was part of the many goings on during the twenty-eight edition of Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.

Bob P: Hi Derek, how are you doing, is this your first time in Montreal?

Derek: No, but it's been about twelve years now, we used to do a lot of runs in Canada when I was between nine and thirteen years old, so it's been a while.

Bob P: You have been on the road a long time for a young guy?

Derek: Come to think of it, I have not been in Montreal for more than twelve years now. So to answer your current question, I am twenty-eight now so it's been eighteen years that I have been touring now, which is pretty crazy.

Bob P: Eighteen years- wow! It is pretty wild considering your age, but a lot of things have gone well for you, and you have accomplished a lot.

Derek: This has been a busy year already.

Bob P: But not as busy as last year?

Derek: No, but real close, and it's only the beginning of July.

Bob P: Is there more focus on your band this year?

Derek: I want to focus more on my band, but the first half of the year was the Clapton tour, which ended in April, then the Beacon run with the Allman Brothers, which was great, and the NYC Beacon/Allman run went into April because of the Clapton tour. Then we did the 'Soul Stew' tour with my wife Susan, which was a lot of fun.

Bob P: I just got the new Robben Ford CD 'Truth' and your wife (Susan Tedeschi) turns up on his record.

Derek: Yeah she is on that.

Bob P: I spoke and interviewed Robben a few weeks ago and he told me about how that all came about with Susan, as Robben was with his wife in a CD store, and heard Susan doing a record store performance, and he dug her show, and asked her if she wanted to be on his new Concord CD.

Derek: That's funny, I did not know how that came about, as I know Robben, and well- it's a small world (laughs!) Yeah, the touring musician world can be a small realm as well.

Bob P: Frank John-Hadley of Downbeat was telling me you did some work on an upcoming Telarc disk by McCoy Tyner?

Derek: Oh yeah Frank did that nice feature cover piece on me and Susan, and he is right about recording with McCoy, as I did two tracks with Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, and McCoy which was a lot of fun. That should be coming out soon I would guess, plus I think Bela Fleck is on it, as well as Marc Ribot, and John Scofield, so it's a pretty nice lineup.

Bob P: That is nice company you are keeping with all those strong guitarists, plus McCoy, Ron Carter and DeJohnette?

Derek: Yeah, I would go guitar tech to get a glimpse of what was going on during the recording sessions of McCoy's CD, so it was very cool for me to be a part of it, I was really honored that they asked me to play on it.

Bob P: What are your plans for your band for the rest of the year?

Derek: We have a pretty busy year, we are doing the Clapton Crossroads Festival later this month, where I am playing with my band, and then I am playing in Eric's band, which will be really nice. Then we are running pretty hard as we are going over to Japan and Europe, and Hawaii on the way home, so a lot of overseas touring. I'm trying to get a new record in too.

Bob P: I was just going to ask you about your next recording?

Derek: We are going to use the month of September to record, write, and rehearse. There are a lot of ideas floating around for what we want to do on the next disk, so I am excited to get working on the next CD.

Bob P: Your vocalist Mike Mattison has been on my radio show several times, and when he was on with me during March madness with the Allman's he told me that you all have had a lot incredible material that you want to put down on record?

Derek: That is correct; it's just a matter of the right time, the right producer, the right room, and hopefully getting everything lined up, so we will get it together!

Bob P: With everything you are working on, how do you find time to continue to stay creative and focused?

Derek: It is difficult at times and can be a balancing act, because I am still touring with the Allman Brothers, so I am balancing multiple bands, plus I have two kids now, my son is starting kindergarten this year, and I have to free up some time so my wife can go out and do her thing too.

Bob P: Are you going to be a home Daddy?

Derek: I will be doing more of that next year, as I kind of owe it to Susan, as last year and this year have been so busy, so I have to give her some time to roam and do her thing.

Bob P: Keep the balance going!

Derek: Yeah man, it's a delicate balance.

Bob P: Well you know what Johnnie Taylor said; it's Cheaper to Keep Her!

Derek: She knows better than me, we will see where it goes.

Bob P: I will definitely be looking forward to the new recording, as well as tonight's performance.

Derek: Thanks, we will keep it rolling no doubt!

Bob P: Any more thoughts for the blueswax, and/or the New York audience?

Derek: For us NY is our second home, as it is for the Allman Brothers family too. New York has been great to our band, Scrapomatic, and all the projects involved. So I always look forward to spending time there. We try to save all the good shows for New York.

Bob P: Is that true?

Derek: Yeah, New York and Boston are probably the two cities that have been kindest to the band. Atlanta is finally coming around as well, as it always seems to take more time for your home town and area to come around and take us seriously, which has taken years. But New York is the first city that really embraced the band, and that sticks with me at all times.

Bob P: Are you still in touch with Ashley Kahn?

Derek: Oh yeah, I see Ashley a lot, I just saw him at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

Bob P: He's a great guy, who got his start at the same radio station I am at in New Jersey; WFDU.

Derek: He is a great guy, and a very early champion of the band, so we owe him quite a bit too.

Bob P: He's an easy guy to know.

Derek: A very easy guy to know. Actually I got to know him from his Miles Davis book 'Kind of Blue,' which I really enjoyed. And Ashley did an excellent NPR radio show on us, as well as his Wall Street Journal piece on our band. He's a great guy, not only for us but also for Susan too. Those connections- they matter, they really help out, especially when we are out here grinding away, then someone like Ashley jumps on our bandwagon which makes a huge difference.

Bob P: Ashley (other than his Rolling Stone years) is mostly known as a jazz writer.

Derek: Yeah, when someone like that is into it like he is, it really means so much.

Bob P: It sure does as he reaches a wider audience of potential listeners for you.

Derek: Amen to that!

Bob P: Derek, keep on doing what you are doing, as a lot of people are digging what you are laying down in all of the genres you cover, so keep on rocking and mixing it up like you do.

Derek: Thanks Bob, we are going to try to continue to do what we feel is right for our band, and for our very much appreciated fan's.

For my ears, Derek Tucks has to be one of the most fascinating musicians to come on the music scene for quite some time, best of all- his music is blues based! So keep an open ear to see what the future holds for a still quite young Derek Trucks. * For more about Derek; see the Montreal Jazz Fest wrap-up article for a detailed run down about Derek's live performance at Montreal's Spectrum Theater.

Bob Putignano

Bob Putignano

Bob Putignano
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society