- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Derek Trucks looks eerily like the late Duane Allman and, better still, plays like him, too. A mere 23 years old, Mr. Trucks, an accomplished slide guitarist who records and tours with the Allman Brothers Band, has by now assimilated more permutations of what's lazily called "world music" than should be allowed in one musician.

He's looking forward to playing in the Washington area, where he expects to perform for a crowd that's as eager to listen to such music as he is to play it.

"It's one of the few areas in the country where we get a heady audience," Mr. Trucks says in a phone interview, "as opposed to college-town audiences" a little too fond of "screaming and dancing."

At the State Theatre in Falls Church tomorrow night, Mr. Trucks and his solo band, including District-reared flutist and keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, will perform material from their three studio albums as well as standards such as "Ain't That Loving You Baby," written by the legendary Chicago blues giant Jimmy Reed.

Expect new, unreleased material as well, possibly including covers of the iconic tenor saxophonist John Coltrane and original Latin-based jams.

Todd Smallie (bass and vocals) and Yonrico Scott (drums and percussion) round out the band's lineup, in addition to Mike Mattison, a Brooklyn-based singer who has performed with the group during its ongoing fall tour.

The band's first two releases, a self-titled debut and 1998's "Out of the Madness," mined traditional blues territory; its latest release, "Joyful Noise," out since September, is a salad of blues, gospel, jazz fusion, percussive salsa and neo-Sufi folk music.

"There's a common thread between all of that," Mr. Trucks says. "It's all soul music. The Delta, Sufi music, Coltrane they're all close to the earth."

Devotees of the Allman Brothers Band, one of whose founding members is Mr. Trucks' uncle Butch Trucks, are very familiar with the young guitarist's talents. "Statesboro Blues," "Whipping Post," "Dreams" and other Allman classics he's got those covered. But fans of the seminal Southern rockers may be surprised at some of the cross-cultural tricks up his sleeve.

Mr. Trucks stretches typical 12-bar blues riffing into a pleasingly fluid East-West alloy, blending black country blues with hard-bop jazz and winding, arabesque tonalities from the Indian subcontinent.

On "Maki Madni," for example, a song off "Joyful Noise," Mr. Trucks weaves his guitar lines with the mystical Sufi chanting of Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a Pakistani singer.

That's a long way from the Mississippi Delta, the swampy, economically depressed region that birthed the ingenious black musicians who used knives and broken bottlenecks to create what's now called "slide guitar."

By wearing a simple cylindrical tube of glass on one of their fingers, guitarists such as Mr. Trucks achieve that lithe, steely, instantly recognizable sound made famous by Robert Johnson, Elmore James and, much later, Mr. Allman, who died far too early in a 1971 motorcycle accident.

"He was definitely one of my biggest influences," Mr. Trucks says of Mr. Allman.

Mr. Trucks and Co. are given to long instrumental sections, but those segments are qualitatively different from those of the festival-touring, jam-happy bands whose noodling can be a pleasant diversion or, depending on your mood, exhaustingly mindless.

In contrast, the Derek Trucks Band requires a little attentiveness close listening that may remind you of the energetic musical swoops and arcs of the Allman Brothers Band's "Fillmore East" live album.

"There's a lot of improvisation," Mr. Trucks says, "but we're trying to say something it's not just wandering for the sake of wandering."


WHAT: Derek Trucks Band with Seth Yacavone Band

WHERE: State Theatre, 220 N. Washington St., Falls Church

WHEN: 7 p.m. tomorrow

TICKETS: $17

PHONE: 703/237-0300 for tickets and information

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