By: Josh Chasin
Purdie, Dupree, Jemmott, Gregg Allman horns, Mike Mattison, Susan Tedeschi… these are the ingredients in a recipe for soul.
Things can happen on Monday nights. The weekend pressure is off, and the band is following an off night. For years I’ve made sure to catch at least one Monday night gig.
“No One Left to Run With” begins with subdued, mid-range guitars; Derek Diddleys it up on the outro (Derek Trucks, Derek Trucks, have you heard?”) “One Way Out” is a rollicking good time, a sprightly treat up here in the two hole.
Things get heavy with “Rocking Horse.” On the first solo, Warren snakes, bobs and weaves, then falls into a pause. Oteil is flying, so Warren climbs up onto his back for a ride, shooting dank swampy beams out into the night; from there he turns up the energy to 11. So Derek, of course, begins his turn slowly, riding the wave of the band’s thick rhythms. The pace accelerates; Derek accelerates even more, storms out ahead of the band, a sweet ride.
Gregg’s voice drips with sad honey on “Stormy Monday.” Derek takes the first solo, rich, creamy, beautiful, the true blues. Gregg’s solo is especially assertive, then Warren does his blues thang.
Right out of “Stormy” the drums keep percolating, Butch, Jaimoe and Marc cooking up a mess of gumbo, and only when it’s just right, Warren does the scatted-guitar intro and the guitar-guitar intro lines to “Gilded Splinters,” a song that has established itself solidly as one of my favorites in the set. Derek is the focal point, like an open fire hydrant, channeling the percussive mojo into a stream of gold. Then Derek and Warren trade licks that are almost entirely absent of melody, using the guitars as linear percussion instruments.
Next up is “Egypt,” and the drum squad lays on a whole different kind of groove. Derek does some fresh explorations before they fall into the theme, and he tosses in treats between theme lines as well.
Like a lot of the band’s instrumentals (maybe all of them), “Egypt” is a narrative, what I’ve heard Derek call a “melodic story.” First the band lays out the musical vibe; this is akin to “It was a dark and stormy night.” Or maybe more aptly with this song, “It was hot. Again. The cloak of night did little to relieve the heat.” Then the guitars state the theme, which is the introduction of the hero. Think Peter and the Wolf; the melodic theme that defines the song’s licks is the hero’s theme. Then the instrumental, improvisational part. A story needs narrative arc, and in this part of the song, the hero undergoes a journey or adventure or quest, and is changed by it. Then the theme is restated, the hero’s theme, but the hero has changed, so I t is the same but not the same (the closing restatement of the theme is inevitably informed by the instrumental “journey” middle section.)
Tonight Derek takes the first solo, bringing the protagonist through danger, adversity—then, suddenly, sublime discovery, articulated through shimmering, wavy slide notes. Warren begins like a twin son of a different mother, then takes us straight to the hot zone. Oteil hints at the exit riff, but Warren is having none of it, he races on. So Oteil responds by going in exactly the opposite direction of the riff. Finally, even after Oteil has pulled the rip cord, Warren sails over him, falling head first into the theme. The same, but not the same.
The Gregg Allman Horns (Jay Collins, Chris Karlic, Jim Seely) join for a sweet rendition of “Loving You Too Long” that has couples swaying in the aisles like prom night. Warren sings the living hell out of it. The horns melt like butter, and Derek slices through it. Then Derek announces “Don’t Keep Me Wondering,” the horns keep the time, the guitars bend it. The contrast lends exciting tension to the song; the horns playing straight, brassy lines, the two guitarists doing things with twin leads that are illegal in some states.
Set two begins, and there’s a party on the stage. In yet another gesture to their past, the band welcomes members of the Kingpins, who played with King Curtis on his own classic Fillmore record, the one with “Soul Serenade.” Cornell Dupree is on guitar, seated behind Derek and to the right; Jerry Jemmott has taken Oteil’s slot on bass, and Bernard Purdie, one of the most renowned drummers around, is on Butch’s kit; no Butch, no Marc. Mike Mattison from Derek’s band is sitting in on vocals. And the horns are back. So left to right, there are 11 guys on stage. It is our own Soul Revue.
There is maybe two minutes of tuning and comparing notes, on a shuffle that may or may not be part of the show. Then the lights hit the stage and the players are introduced. Jemmott bolts out of the gate on bass, with Purdie and Jaimoe right there with him; it is “Memphis Soul Stew,” or maybe more aptly, “Beacon Soul Stew.” Mattison calls out the proceedings, inviting in each player as he cooks up that soulful stew just right. The horns lay down tasty lines, fall off into some discordant jazzy space, then come back and nail down the soulful vibe. Dupree plays some stoked, killer lead guitar. Derek serves up a heap o’ soul, then Dupree just smokes, playing with an extremely clean, classic tone. Towards the end, Jemmott takes flight on a round. Half Allmans, half Kingpins, all soul.
Most of the entourage leaves the stage—alas!—and Mattison fronts the Allman Brothers Band on “Anyday.” Susan Tedeschi has come on to sing harmony vocals. Oteil, even though tonight he is not singing this one, is probably having more fun on the song than anyone in the house. He’s so full of joy as Mattison and Susan hit the chorus, he’s like to pop. Mattison takes the song in a higher register than Oteil has been, and he nails it. Warren steps forward for a big, grand sixties acid rock solo, reminiscent of—well, of that British guy. Vocals, then Derek pulls out with a good old Sunday morning, major key solo… jumping for a moment into hyper-speed… then throttling back to sunshine, finally embracing the melody line to close.
The horn section is back, and Warren takes the band into “Just Before the Bullets Fly.” A punchy sax solo gives way to a Warren shred, the whole song having a feel not unlike “Same Thing.” Gregg sings the second verse; from my seat it looks like he maybe took Warren by surprise on his entrance. Derek takes the solo out of Gregg’s vocals, then the two guitars lock horns, firing licks at one another, and it evolves into one serpent, chasing its own tail… and catching up. They hit a climactic burst, but keep playing right through it.
A muscular “Leave My Blues at Home” rumbles on, a platform for… Jabuma. Jaimoe leads a nice, early cymbal-heavy beat, Butch goes low on the timpani, while Marc is hammering wooden accents in the middle. At different points, each of the three drummers takes the reigns. Oteil’s section is less a solo, more a path back from Jabuma to the song. He fronts a 5-piece, the three drummers plus Derek laying down the rhythm; Oteil is playing lead on the bass. Soon Warren and Gregg return and pick up the beat, Gregg lays out a chord that suggests the melody, and then bam, back into the verse. Derek and Warren trade extended rounds driving to the closing of the song’s parentheses.
“Statesboro Blues” follows like an old shoe; then the band lights into a jaunty “Revival.” Derek plays a rubbery solo on the extended guitar part at the back end that passes through places—including “Mountain Jam” and “Jessica”—and teases a very familiar melody I can’t for the life of me put a name to. Derek’s lead melts into a Warren/Derek duel, a long guitar song leading into the “People can you feel it” part, which Warren sings while clapping his hands over his head.
With so many guests in the house, the inevitable encore is “Southbound” (it is a song anyone can pick up.) The night ends with round after round, horns, Dupree, Derek, Warren, firing back and forth, southern boogie and tangy soul stew all in one big pot.
No One Left To Run With
One Way Out
Stormy Monday >
Loving You Too Long (Gregg Allman Horns)
Don’t Keep Me Wondering (GA Horns)
Beacon Soul Stew (Mike Mattison; Kingpin; GA Horns)
Anyday (Mike Mattison)
Just Before the Bullets Fly (GA Horns)
Leave My Blues at Home > JABUMA!! > LMBAH (I like saying “Jabuma”)
Southbound (cast of thousands)