Guitar great Derek Trucks insists he's a jazzy guy

When the Straight tracks down slide-guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks at an L.A. hotel, he's just checked in for a few gigs with his wife, acclaimed blues vocalist Susan Tedeschi. They're four shows into their Soul Stew Revival tour, which sees the couple performing select tunes from their respective solo careers, but focusing mainly on newer material. Trucks won't be accompanied by his beloved when he plays the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, though; it'll just be him and the guys in the Derek Trucks Band showcasing tunes from their latest CD, Songlines. That disc offers a wide-ranging variety of soulful sounds, touching on everything from traditional acoustic blues to Jamaican reggae to Pakistani Qawwali music. "It's all music that I've spent a lot of time living with and that I have a real love for," notes the 28-year-old player.

Trucks first caught the attention of guitar freaks in a big way when, while still a teen, he was recruited by southern-rock icons the Allman Brothers Band. The ABB's current lineup includes his uncle, founding drummer Butch Trucks, as well as esteemed guitarist Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule fame, but it's Trucks who is charged with resurrecting the immortal slidework of Duane Allman. Although he cites Allman (and Elmore James) among his earliest influences, Trucks doesn't claim that he's channelling Allman's spirit when his bottleneck sweeps the strings on classic tracks like "Whipping Post" or "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed". But he respects the legendary picker's legacy. "You definitely try to pay homage and tap into it," he relates.

The youngest person to make it onto Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list, Trucks isn't particularly comfortable with that. "It's not really what I'm shooting for," he points out with a chuckle, "but whatever, I'll take it." Last February he was pictured on the influential music mag's cover along with John Mayer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' John Frusciante, under the headline "New Guitar Gods". The last thing Trucks wants is to be billed as some hotshot guitar-slinger. He's more of a jazzy guy.

"The same month that the Rolling Stone cover came out, me and my wife were on the cover of Down Beat," he reports, "which for me was more exciting. We've done a lotta music that tips the hat to the great jazz artists, whether it's a Rahsaan Roland Kirk tune or a Wayne Shorter tune. You know, I just got to record with McCoy Tyner and Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette on a McCoy record and just did a show with Wynton Marsalis's septet in New York City."

The Derek Trucks Band plays the Commodore on Sunday (June 24).