IF YOU GO
What: Tedeschi Trucks Band. An evening of soul, gospel, blues and rock
When: 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, June 8-10
Where: Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St., Philadelphia
Cost: $49-$99 (June 9 and10 sold out)
The Grammy Award-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band led by guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks and his wife, singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, brings its powerhouse of soul, gospel and bluesy rock to the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia for three nights.
The 12-piece band is currently touring in support of their new concert film and live album, “Live from the Fox Oakland,” which was filmed and recorded on a single night last September.
“We planned to choose from 10 nights, but we ended up loving the performance on one night,” Tedeschi said calling from her home in Jacksonville, FL.
In a band of 12 musicians, it might be hard to capture one live performance that everyone likes, but for these musicians they’re as close as . . . well, family.
“Well, if I’m the mother of the group, then Derek is definitely the father,” Tedeschi said. “I’m the one making sure everyone’s fed and making sure everyone’s beds are made, but he’s the leader.”
Trucks produced “Live from the Fox” as well as their most recent studio release, last year’s widely acclaimed “Let Me Get By.” The group records at their Swamp Raga home studio and are purists at heart. They record together as a band and make decisions as a collective entity.
“Our goal is to make great music together,” Tedeschi said. “That means we need to work as a team and have open communication with each other and show off everyone’s talents in the band.”
The band includes several long-time friends and musical partners: singers Mike Mattison (lead singer with The Derek Trucks Band) Mark Rivers, and Alecia Chakour, keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge (also from The Derek Trucks Band), bassist Tim Lefbvre, drummers J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell, trumpeter Ephraim Owens, tenor saxophonist Kebbi Williams, and trombonist Elizabeth Lea.
The title track from “Let Me Get By” came to signify the artistic fruit after years of toiling under the visions of others. With that album, Tedeschi Trucks Band began making music entirely on its own accord.
“It was the first time we made a record without A&R telling us what to do,” Tedeschi said. “That song was born from a melody that Kofi started playing during a sound check. I started to write some lyrics, and then Derek, and before you knew it everyone had a hand.”
The band recently rounded out to an even 12 players with the additions of Chakour, Owen, and Lea. Lefbvre joined in 2013 after the band played for several years with an array of bassists. With him he brought a repertoire of jazz, fusion, and session credits. While working on “Let Me Get By” he was also commuting to New York to play on David Bowie’s final record, “Blackstar.”
“Kofi is definitely the underrated member of the band,” Tedeschi said. “We all go to him whenever we have a question about making something work. But Tim really relates to the different talents in the band. Not a lot of people can improvise and interact with everyone on stage the way he does.”
“Live from the Fox” is the band’s second live release following 2012’s “Everybody’s Talking.” The double disc release captures the band’s live sound in all its passionate glory.
“It was time for a live record,” Tedeschi said. “Derek said the band got to a point where we were firing on all cylinders.”
The band’s roots are derived from the big-band soul and rock from the late Sixties and Seventies, although its sound is its own. Trucks and Tedeschi have certainly played with their share of musical heroes. Trucks has appeared twice on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time and cut his teeth as an early teen playing as a member of his uncle Butch Trucks’ Allman Brothers Band.
Tedeschi in her own right was an accomplished blues solo artist and band leader before they met and the two have collaborated with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Leon Russell, and many others. In fact, Tedeschi admits that it has been a tough year for the band with the passing of a number of their family, friends and musical heroes including, Russell, Sharon Jones, Butch Trucks, and most recently, Col. Bruce Hampton.
“I took B.B. King’s loss pretty hard,” she said. “He was so important to me and then it just seemed that we kept losing all these great musicians.”
Tedeschi said the band, however, is looking to the future and already has plans to get together in the next few weeks to begin writing again.
“For us it’s like a big family gathering,” she said. “We need it. We cook and hang out and write music together.”
That interconnection and love of music will be on full display during their shows at the Merriam. Both the Friday and Saturday shows will feature the band playing two full sets. So expect lots of high energy improvisation and familial camaraderie.