Oct 26, 2014
My wife Nancy and I will be in attendance at the Beacon Theatre in New York City Monday night when the Allman Brothers Band plays their next-to-last live performance together. After 45 years of existence, the venerable band has decided they will no longer perform as a group, and will go on to other projects.
Few rock bands are as integrally involved with jazz as the Allman Brothers Band. From their very beginning, guitarist Duane Allman was inspired and awe-struck by the music that Miles Davis and John Coltrane were playing. Read Robert Palmer's liner notes for the re-issue of Kind of Blue, and you'll learn about the effect it had on Duane. In part, he writes:
Duane was a rare melodist and a dedicated student of music who was never evasive about the sources of his inspiration. "You know," he told me one night after soaring for hours on wings of lyrical song, "that kind of playing comes from Miles and Coltrane, and particularly Kind Of Blue. I've listened to that album so many times that for the past couple of years, I haven't hardly listened to anything else.”
For a worthy essay on these topics, check out "The Serendipity of Two Musical Heroes: Duane Allman and John Coltrane" by David Gardiner, and an excerpt from Guitar Player magazine that quotes Duane on Trane and Miles. To hear the man himself at his Coltrane inspired best, listen to "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and while you do, read this insightful Wikipedia entry on the song, where Duane's solos are compared with Coltrane's "sheets of sound" and Miles' modal recordings on Kind of Blue.
The jazz connections did not die when Duane passed away in 1971. The onstage lineup of two guitars, organ/piano, bass and two drummers (and later a percussionist) presented more like a jazz band than a rock group. And their sound – deeply improvisational, often modal in approach – is pure jazz.
The last few years of the band have seen jazz musicians like saxophonist Bill Evans join the group onstage on a regular basis, and it’s not uncommon to find a cover of Miles’ “Spanish Key” finding its way into their set lists, as you will hear in the Podcast.
I’ve seen close to a dozen ABB shows, and I’ve never been disappointed. I’m sure there will be some memorable moments Monday night as Gregg, Warren, Derek, Oteil, Jaimoe, Butch and Marc leave us yelling for more. But after Tuesday, there will only be the recorded music and the memories. They won’t be “hittin’ the note” onstage again.
Podcast 451 celebrates jazz takes on the ABB songbook, plus the band, collectively and individually (including their bands, like the Jaimoe/Chuck Leavell/Lamar Williams combo Sea Level or Warren Haynes’ Gov’t Mule), tackling jazz flavored tunes and covers, including:
Joel Harrison 7 – “Whipping Post” from Search
Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band – “Melissa” from Renaissance Man
John Pizzarelli – “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” from Double Exposure
Buddy Miles – “Dreams” from Them Changes.
Derek Trucks Band – “Naima” from The Derek Trucks Band
Gov’t Mule – “Trane” from an unreleased recording February 22, 2014 at Charleston, WV
Sea Level – “Rain in Spain” from Sea Level.
Allman Brothers Band (with Bill Evans on sax and John Ginty on piano)– “Spanish Key” from an unreleased recording at the Beacon Theatre in New York, March 14, 2011
Ken Navarro – “Little Martha” from The Test of Time.
While they won’t be there Tuesday night, other musicians who I’ve seen on the bandstand holding down a guitar spot as members deserve a shout out as well – Dickey Betts, Jimmy Herring, and Jack Pearson. And as always, fans will remember Duane, Berry Oakley, Lamar Williams, Allen Woody and others who are no longer there in body, but always in spirit.