In August 2019, Tedeschi Trucks Band performed “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” — the 1970 double album by Eric Clapton’s group Derek and the Dominos — in its entirety on the Lockn’ Festival in Virginia.
The record is especially meaningful to the married couple at the center of Tedeschi Trucks: Derek Trucks (whose name was inspired by the Dominos) had played much of the fabric as a member of Clapton’s touring band; the second lead guitarist on the recordings was Duane Allman, founding father of the Allman Brothers Band, wherein Trucks played for 15 years along with his uncle, Butch, on drums. Susan Tedeschi, meanwhile, was born on the very day the album was released.
When the pandemic struck seven months later, the 12 members of the hard-touring Tedeschi Trucks Band were scattered and stuck at home for an indefinite future, so the guitarist and vocalist Mike Mattison suggested all of them read something together and see what ideas or inspiration it would spark. The text he proposed was the twelfth century Persian poem “Layla and Majnun,” which gave the beloved album its title and central theme of unrequited love. Clapton likened the epic narrative to his own infatuation with Pattie Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison.
The group, which blends Americana, roots- and blues-rock, had never used this type of writing prompt, never tried to jot down in such a directed fashion. But because the lockdown dragged on, the exercise unleashed a wild creative outburst, eventually resulting in 24 latest songs, which were released over the summer as a series of 4 albums titled “I Am the Moon,” each with its own companion film. The ultimate installment, subtitled “Farewell,” got here out earlier this month, together with a boxed set that encompasses the complete project.
“It was a tough reset for us,” Trucks said in a recent telephone call from the house that he, Tedeschi, and their two children share in Jacksonville, Fla. “Between that music being so vital to us personally and the quantity of isolation and madness within the story, it appeared to resonate with us and with the entire world in a variety of ways.”
In a separate call, Tedeschi pointed to the parallels between the scope of the poem and the past few years. “Here’s all of us in isolation, at home, contemplating every thing that’s occurring,” she said. “And you could have Layla and Majnun, who’re separated, and he’s out within the desert by himself, going mad and losing his mental health. She’s locked away in a tower and might’t be with the person she desires to be with. And her dad and these other men principally tell her what she will be able to do — we haven’t really come that far for the reason that twelfth century. So it gave the look of we could go in 100 different directions, but still be coming from that very same source.”
Starting this Thursday, the fabric from “I Am the Moon” — much of it being played live for the primary time — will probably be the centerpiece of a seven-show stand by Tedeschi Trucks Band on the Beacon Theater, the eleventh time of their profession that the group will perform a multiple-night run on the Upper West Side landmark. (The Oct. 3 show will mark their fiftieth appearance on the venue.) It’s an extension of a convention began by the Allman Brothers, who played greater than 230 shows on the Beacon over 25 years, a well-known setting for the freewheeling, Grammy-winning ensemble to settle in and stretch out.
Trucks, 43, has influences that stretch far beyond American roots music into Indian and Eastern styles and avant-garde jazz (two installments of the “I Am the Moon” series have subtitles, “Crescent” and “Ascension,” borrowed from John Coltrane album titles). He joined the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Allman Brothers Band in 1999, before turning 20.
Tedeschi, 51, got here up in Boston as more of a straight-ahead blues player. She has six Grammy nominations of her own, and as a solo act, opened for the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. The couple were married in 2001 and, after touring together because the Soul Stew Revival, they merged their groups into Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010.
“Susan and Derek each at all times appear to go to the place you wish to go when playing music, and the entire band is with them at every step,” Norah Jones wrote in an email. “It’s that magical space above the norm that only can exist when one is open to a real musical exchange onstage. Everyone appreciates what everyone else is doing and it’s obvious. And the way in which Susan’s voice slices through the large sound of the band and just soars is unreal.”
There’s often been a way, though, that the band’s recordings haven’t matched what they’re able to onstage. “That’s type of been the rap on our group,” Mattison said, “that we’re an incredible touring band and an incredible live band and when it comes time to do an album, we type of go, ‘Oh, what are we going to do?’ The creative part, generating songs and things, has at all times type of been an afterthought, but this time it was really intentional. At first, we didn’t quite know tips on how to do it, but it surely took it by itself logic and began fueling itself.”
Tesechi and Trucks agreed that diving into the themes of “Layla and Majnun” had an impact beyond the music, forcing them to think harder about their very own marriage and relationships. “It actually made us stronger, and made us higher listeners to one another,” Tedeschi said. “It made us incredibly thankful for our band, and for one another and our youngsters, but at the identical time, it made you see the weaknesses and the strengths, and begin working on the things that you could have to work on. I believe it was a healing thing for all of us.”
Trucks went further. “I believe it type of saved the band,” he said, pausing for the screeching sound of a hawk fight happening overhead. “I’m not likely sure what we’d have done if we had come out of the pandemic without latest material and a latest outlook. I’m undecided how long we’d have just plugged away, business as usual.”
Bringing the “I Am the Moon” material and this re-energized attitude to the Beacon residency comes with each excitement and a certain degree of pressure. “The Beacon is home turf in a variety of ways, but it surely’s at all times somewhat bit intimidating because there’s a lot history there,” Trucks said.
“Every considered one of those dressing rooms I even have memories in, whether it’s our son, Charlie, being there when he was 10 or 12 days old or introducing Gregg and Butch to our youngsters,” he added, referring to Allman and his uncle. “There’s not many corners I can turn within the Beacon where some image doesn’t come to mind of vital moments in my life — and these days, a variety of times that’s with folks that aren’t here anymore, so you are feeling those ghosts.”
Prolonged stays in a single city (the band also does annual shows on the Chicago Theater) often result in surprise guests or unexpected song decisions. “I don’t know exactly what’s going to occur,” Tedeschi said, “but that’s type of the fun of it. I’m going to call up a few of my friends and see who shows up.”
Trucks notes, nonetheless, that even before adding every other elements to the Beacon shows, the dozen or so songs from “I Am the Moon” that they still needed to rehearse would make things unpredictable enough. “If you’re doing seven nights, it forces you to dig deep,” he said. “But this yr, we’ve got a lot latest material, there’s already a built-in to-do list. We’re already on the high wire.”