The Tedeschi Trucks Band — featuring Derek Trucks’ slide-guitar virtuosity, Susan Tedeschi’s soulful singing and blues guitar, two drummers and three-piece horn section punch — is a roots-music powerhouse ripe for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Trucks, who shares the band’s name with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, said the group performs a collision of the many styles of music heard at Jazz Fest.
“It’s a roots-music band at its core,” Trucks said from the home he shares with Tedeschi and their two children in Jacksonville, Florida.
“But this band can do a lot of different things,” he added. “The guys on stage, when the gig’s over, they can hit any jazz stage in the world and hold their own. And Susan with an acoustic guitar in front of a microphone, she can command any stage.”
Trucks met Tedeschi, his future wife and bandmate, at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans in 1999. He was then in his first year as guitarist with the Allman Brothers Band, half of the band’s signature double-guitar attack with Warren Haynes.
Tedeschi, leading her own band at the time, had just joined the Allman Brothers Band tour as opening act. At the Saenger that day, Trucks and Allman Brothers Band bassist Oteil Burbridge stepped into the theater during Tedeschi’s soundcheck. As usual, they were checking out their opening act.
Trucks, the nephew of drummer Butch Trucks, a charter member of the Allman Brothers Band, had seen many up-and-coming blues artists. He’d always come away disenchanted, but Tedeschi knocked him out.
“I remember being taken aback at how powerful her sound was, her guitar playing and her singing,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘There’s legit stuff going on here. She could be on stage with Magic Sam in Chicago and he wouldn’t bat an eye.’ ”
Tedeschi and Trucks spent time together during the tour, hanging out and listening to music. They married in 2001. In 2010, they formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which returns Friday to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
It took some years for Trucks to leave the Allman Brothers Band, but he and Tedeschi have both left their respective earlier groups to devote their full musical attention to the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
“There’s something about making music the way that we’re making it,” he said. “The honesty of it really wipes away a lot of the cloudiness.”
The band is an unusually large group. Eleven musicians plus the crew equals an entourage of 20.
“When we first put this thing together, the management and people who were looking out for our best interests wanted to make sure we weren’t losing our minds,” Trucks said. “We didn’t put this band together to squeeze dollars, that’s for sure. But the venues and the promoters appreciate that it’s a labor of love. They know what it takes to bring a band like this on the road.”
Trucks learned lessons about being in a band through his 15 years with the Allman Brothers.
“Half of their story is problems that weren’t dealt with for 10 or 15 years that came raging back,” he said. “When we put the Tedeschi Trucks Band together, Susan and I were like, ‘It’s not going to be that way. If something ain’t working, we’re going to deal with it.’
“It really is a great group of people. Everybody cares about making it work. As we make more records, as we tour more, everybody becomes a little more selfless. Whether it’s soloing or whatever, it’s about the band more and the individuals less. Everybody wants it to be as good as it can be.”
Both Trucks and Haynes left the Allman Brothers Band at the end of 2014. In that 45th anniversary year of the group, Trucks said, “everybody was back on track. There were a few bumpy years there between the 42nd and 44th anniversaries, when things weren’t quite correct. People were dealing with health things, all kinds of stuff going on. It wasn’t up to the level it needed to be. I didn’t want to see it go out like that. Maybe I hung on a little longer for it to get back up to speed. It ended right.”