Jan 24, 2020
Anyone who listens to this podcast on a regular basis knows that I am a huge fan of the Allman Brothers Band. For me, this rock and blues band incorporates jazz elements into their music better than any other, all without the need for adding top session players (Steely Dan) or a horn section (Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago). They were as influenced by Miles Davis and John Coltrane as they were Bobby “Blue” Bland and T-Bone Walker.
Way back in Podcast 451, I commemorated their final run of shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York with jazz versions of their classic tunes. It would be more than five years later that a full album tribute to the music of the Allman Brothers Band would appear, recorded by The Big Band of Brothers. This is a 15 piece big band salute entitled A Jazz Celebration of the Allman Brothers Band and as the ABB would have said, it finds the musicians “hittin’ the note” on ten classics.
The brainchild of producer John Harvey, a group of crack musicians spent three days in Bates Brothers Recording in Hueytown, Alabama. Working on arrangements from songs that were recorded on the first two Allman Brothers Band studio albums, released within ten months of each other beginning in the autumn of 1969, they captured the harmonic and rhythmic complexities of tunes like “Whipping Post”, “Dreams” and especially “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Guests like trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, singers Ruthie Foster and Marc Broussard, and former ABB guitarist Jack Pearson add to the intensity of the recordings.
Harvey worked hand in hand with Mark Lanter, a professor of jazz studies at the University of Alabama and Charles Driebe in producing the album, getting arrangements and handling the talent logistics that are crucial in a project with so many performers. They chose a “live in the studio” feel for the recordings, limiting overdubs whenever possible.
Podcast 723 is my conversation with John Harvey and Mark Lanter, as we discuss the 12 year history of the project, and why they felt the music of the Allman Brothers Band needed a big band treatment. Musical selections from A Jazz Celebration of the Allman Brothers Band include "Don’t Want You No More" featuring Wycliffe Gordon; "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Don't Keep Me Wondering" featuring Ruthie Foster.