Technical prowess is hardly a necessary skill in pop music. But for jazz and blues musicians, like the ones playing TD Toronto Jazz Festival over the next ten days, it’s a mandatory prerequisite.
Yet that doesn’t mean musical mastery precludes things like stage presence and songwriting.
“Playing guitar and writing tunes are two different skill sets,” says Derek Trucks, one-half of the brain trust behind soul-blues crew Tedeschi Trucks Band.
“You have to put time into both.”
Trucks’ technical bona fides are about as unimpeachable as they come. A child prodigy, Trucks formed the Derek Trucks Band in 1996 when he was 17 and officially joined the Allman Brothers Band at the age of 20 after touring with the group for several years.
He’s been ranked on Rolling Stones’ Greatest Guitarists of All Time list twice.
Yet for all his skill, Trucks says writing songs has replaced practicing scales as his musical past time of choice.
“After spending a good 15 years on your tone and improvisation and how much ferocity you can get out of a solo, I felt pretty good.”
These days he’s turning to songwriters like Leonard Cohen and the Band rather than guitar heroes for inspiration.
The shift coincided with the disillusion of the Derek Trucks Band and the formation of the eleven-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife, Susan Tedeschi. The group, which combines Tedeschi’s soulful vocals and Trucks’ guitar virtuosity, released a live album last month, Everybody’s Talkin’ last month.
Each musician has caught some flack for the change in direction, but Trucks believes true fans will follow him through whatever creative muse strikes his fancy, citing Eric Clapton and his many musical mutations — the Yardbirds, Cream,
Derek and the Dominoes — as inspiration.
“You have to make music you believe in,” says Trucks. “Hopefully people come with an open mind.”
TD Toronto Jazz Festival runs from June 22 to July 1. Check torontojazz.com for the full schedule.
This ain’t your grandpa’s jazz
While Toronto’s Jazz fest hasn’t completely abandoned its musical roots the way many other jazz and blues fests have, it seems their definition of “Jazz” changes each year.
Two years ago hip-hop legends (and TK house band) performed and this year funky neo-soul star Janelle Monae is getting top billing along with indie heavy weights Destroyer and reggae star Ziggy Marley.