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| posted on 9/26/2008 at 09:02 PM|
|Holding up the low end|
Oteil Burbridge reflects on a decade-plus with the Allman Brothers
By: Brent Thompson
By the time Oteil Burbridge joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1997, the group had long cemented its legendary status. And while stepping into the stalwart band at age 30 would seem to be an intimidating proposition, the bassist’s awe and appreciation for the group has actually escalated since that time.
“I didn’t know anything about the Allman Brothers when I got the gig,” Burbridge recalls, speaking by phone from his Birmingham home during a recent tour break. “It was off my radar – I was more into funk, jazz and Latin music. I’ve learned a lot of my rock’n roll history from – and with – these people who created it. My awareness of that has grown – I have a much greater appreciation for it than I did when I got the gig.”
On Tuesday, October 7, the Allman Brothers Band will perform at the Verizon Wireless Music Center in a double-bill with Phil Lesh & Friends. Currently, the two bands are teaming for a six-city tour of the Southeast.
When he’s not recording and touring with the Allman Brothers Band, Burbridge plays in the trio KBM with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and Max Creek guitarist Scott Murawski. In addition, Burbridge has fronted Oteil & The Peacemakers and participated in the trio Vida Blue in recent years. But unlike fellow Allman Brothers Band members Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, Burbridge has elected to reduce his musical projects and spend less time on the road.
“I actually don’t do as many [bands] as I used to. There was one year that I played in six bands and I realized that it had just gotten completely out of hand. I just didn’t know how to say ‘No.’ It’s hard to say ‘No’ when it’s something you really want to do artistically and I’ve been really blessed in that respect. But I ended up running myself ragged and I’m not like Warren – I like time at home and I like time not playing music and even listening to music. I like for the pendulum to swing to where I’m involved in things that have nothing to do with music to try to keep a balance. Derek Trucks is young, and when I was his age, I was doing 250 dates a year, too. Right now, I’m just doing the Allman Brothers and KBM,” Burbridge says.
But given the Allman Brothers Band’s reputation as a touring machine, is juggling just two bands still a challenge for Burbridge?
“A lot of interviewers look at like it’s difficult, but it really keeps thing fresh. It’s great to have some variety and to do something different. The Allman Brothers is seven pieces with two drummers and three singers – it’s really super-loud. KBM is a trio – we play a lot longer if we get the chance. It’s like a yin and yang – it’s great to keep a balance,” he says.
A native of Washington, D.C., the 41 year-old Burbridge found his way into the coveted Allman Brothers Band bassist spot through a side project that involved drummer Butch Trucks. Over the course of his career, Burbridge has learned the importance of skill, professionalism and reliability.
“You know a lot of artists that are genius-level artistically but in other areas of their lives, they’re a mess. So the more cats that are out there that can play well but can’t show up to a gig on time or sober, it makes my life easier. The music business hasn’t been about quality since the Allman Brothers and Hendrix and that era when you were rewarded for being better at what you did and unique. Now, you’re penalized for both. Fortunately for me, there are some bands and fans that still appreciate the old school and appreciate someone that took more time to learn his instrument and can play the gig at 100%. I’m grateful for where I’m at right now,” he says.
Though he has played through the Allman Brothers Band catalog more times than he can count, Burbridge still enjoys the challenge of breathing new life into the band’s well-worn songs.
“I think that they’re fresh because they’re timeless songs – they’re like jazz standards. ‘Melissa’ is something I look forward to – in the Allman Brothers, you don’t have an excuse. If it’s not different, it’s your own damn fault. When we do ‘Jessica,’ there’s something in that we’re going to try to change to make it different. It’s your responsibility to make it different.”
The Allman Brothers Band and Phil Lesh will perform on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at the Verizon Wireless Music Center. Tickets are still available through Ticketmaster. Call 715-6000 or go to www.ticketmaster.com
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| posted on 10/27/2008 at 06:11 PM|
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