By Bobby Reed | Published February 2020
Albums offering jazz renditions of rock songs are commonplace nowadays, so the element of surprise has faded. But A Jazz Celebration Of The Allman Brothers Band is an accomplishment of a higher order. This is a collection of smart arrangements of classic jam-band material with a sturdy blues foundation crafted for a 15-piece big band.
A central figure for this project is drummer, producer and jazz educator Mark Lanter, who has played in the Allman Brothers tribute band Eat A Peach. Also key to the proceedings is trumpeter, jazz educator and New South Jazz Orchestra founder Shane Porter, who doesn’t appear on the album, but he contributed four arrangements, including a brilliant rendition of Dickey Betts’ “Les Brers In A Minor” (which appeared on the Allmans’ classic 1972 album, Eat A Peach).
Four guest artists add credibility and spice to the 63-minute program: Blues/Americana star Ruthie Foster delivers powerful lead vocals on “It’s Not My Cross To Bear” and “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’”; Louisiana-bred singer-songwriter Marc Broussard takes the mic for “Whipping Post” and “Statesboro Blues”; Wycliffe Gordon wrote the arrangement for the latter tune and delivers a sturdy soprano trombone solo to “Don’t Want You No More”; and Jack Pearson, who was in the Allman Brothers Band from 1997–’99, injects some potent electric slide guitar work to “Stand Back.”
Elsewhere, trombonist Chad Fisher supplies an ethereal, beautiful solo to “Dreams,” one of three tracks arranged by guitarist Tom Wolfe.
Overall, this album provides a new prism through which to appreciate the music of an iconic band, many of whose founding members are no longer with us, including guitarist Duane Allman (1946–’71), vocalist/keyboardist Gregg Allman (1947–2017), bassist Berry Oakley (1948–’72) and drummer Butch Trucks (1947–2017).