Since the Allman Brothers Band played their final show on October 28, 2014, at New York’s Beacon Theatre, fans of the iconic group have sought tastes of the band’s music wherever they can get them.
This has largely led them to the ongoing bands of guitarists Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, Ashes and Dust) and Derek Trucks (Tedeschi Trucks Band).
But the current band most directly celebrating the Allman Brothers Band legacy is definitely Les Brers, which features five former members, including the percussion trio of Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Marc Quinones, along with bassist Oteil Burbridge, now with Dead and Company, and guitarist Jack Pearson.
The band is rounded out by keyboardist Bruce Katz (Gregg Allman, Delbert McClinton), guitarist Pat Bergeson (Chet Atkins, Tommy Emmanuel) and singer Lamar Williams Jr.
The band, which was originally put together by Trucks to play at the Allman Brothers-owned Wanee and Peach festivals, is about to launch its second mini-tour, with five dates in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, October 12 to 16.
Les Brers in concert. Photo: Richard Brent
“These shows have been so much fun,” says Pearson, who played with the Allman Brothers band from 1997 to '99 and then off and on as a sub or guest. The Nashville-based guitarist may be the most inventive, diverse guitarist to ever play with the band, which he is proving every night with Les Brers. He says that when Trucks contacted him in 2015 about putting together Les Brers, he quickly thought that Bergeson, a protégé of Chet Atkins who has played with countless Nashville artists, would be a perfect foil. (Bergeson also attended music school and was good friends with Guitar World Music Editor Jimmy Brown.)
“I've known Pat since the early Nineties, and we've always played great together. What Pat and I are doing with Les Brers is pretty exciting,” Pearson says. “We both grew up playing Allman Brothers songs so it’s in the ABB tradition, but it’s also new because we both love to improvise and are expressing ourselves with our solos and seeing where we can take it and tell a story. Pat is a tremendous player and I think a lot of rock players don’t know him and will be blown away.”
One of the most striking features of Bergeson and Pearson’s approach is the simplest; they went back to the Allman Brothers Band recordings and learned the original guitar parts and harmonies of Dickey Betts and Duane Allman, replicating them perfectly before setting off on their own solo flights of fancy. The approach is particularly noticeable on “Blue Sky,” which has returned to the key of E and once again has the bounce—the blue sky feeling—of the original.
“I think Pat and I are being ourselves and taking the music where we can with our personalities, but when it comes to playing the head, we want to play it as close to the original as possible,” Pearson says. “It’s the same as jazz; if you’re playing a Charlie Parker song, you try to play the head correctly and then express yourself in the solo with whatever you want to play. We approach this the exact same way. We want the music to sound right.”
Pearson says it has been particularly thrilling to play with the Allman Brothers’ percussion army again.
“It’s really hard to put into words what Butch and Jaimoe do together; they have incredible finesse and power, which is almost impossible!” Pearson says “The parts they play together become like one big drum set. It’s very similar to the way two guitars need to play together for this music to be right. For instance, if we are playing a C chord, Pat and I may strum that in unison, but then one of us will start playing harmony or counterpoint and see where we can take that too. Butch and Jaimoe play drums like that, which is completely unique. It’s always interlocking and they’re talking to one another, having a conversation all night. It’s a beautiful thing to listen to and downright inspiring to play with!”
LES BRERS TOUR DATES
October 12: Brooklyn Bowl
October 13: The Wellmont Theatre, Montclair, NJ
October 14: The Fillmore Philadelphia
October 15: The Chameleon club, Lancaster, PA
October 16: NYCB Theatre at Westbury, Westbury, NY
Twenty-dollar tickets are available for the Wellmont and Westbury shows. Visit ticketmaster.com/promo/14u9mm and use the password “Allmanbros.”
Alan Paul is the author of One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band.