The 12-piece format and commitment on everyone's part gives freedom to dig deep

The last time this correspondent chatted with Derek Trucks by phone, it was 2011, just a year after he and wife Susan Tedeschi —  like him an acclaimed blues-rock singer, guitarist and bandleader — set aside their own bands to form an 11-piece unit, The Tedeschi Trucks Band. The new band's debut album "Revelator" had just come out a few months earlier. Trucks talked about forming the band as a "leap of faith."

That leap of faith paid off. It's 2018 now, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band, now a 12-piece, is eight years old — and set to bring its "Wheels of Soul" tour to Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC) on Tuesday, July 10, on a bill with the Drive-By Truckers and the Marcus King Band. "Revelator" won the Best Blues Album Grammy, and the band was nominated for the 2018 Best Contemporary Blues Album for "Live From the Fox Oakland" — that's along with taking Band of the Year and Rock Blues Album of the Year twice in the Blues Music Awards. They've got two more studio albums ("Made Up Mind" and "Let Me Get By") and two live albums to their name.

And now, when he talks about the band, words like "freedom" and "fortunate" come up a lot. And "trust."

"The band's grown a ton, but I think we've really learned how to just kind of open up as a band musically and kind of trust where it's going to go," Trucks said. "I think we're just starting to trust our own catalog more and more. The more you go through as a band, the more you live together, the more you play together, the more underlying confidence we get."

That catalog of theirs, while based and steeped in the blues and Southern rock — Trucks, after all, was playing alongside Buddy Guy as a young teen and later was a full member of the Allman Brothers (he is, in fact, Butch Truck's nephew) and toured with Eric Clapton — but with the fluidity and flexibility to go anywhere. The band can play loose and tight, with elements of R&B, gospel, jazz, and even Eastern musical stylings.

"It's pretty freeing that way," Trucks said. "I mean, the musicianship across the board is pretty over the top ... me and Sue feel very fortunate to be able to look across the stage and see the players that are here and understand just everyone's background — there's a lot of real, authentic music being made by people that grew up in it, people from all over the country, all across the spectrum musically and inside of the band.

"So I feel like almost anything we tap into , you can dig down and kind of find the real root of it. That's a pretty special thing. I've definitely been in bands where you can play a lot of different things, but you're kind of approximating it or imagining what it would sound like with a mini-choir or a horn section — but with this band, when we decide to really sink our teeth into something like that, it feesl realized, and that's a unique thing."

While there's been a few comings and goings, turnover in the band has been minimal, with a pretty constant lineup over the past eight years. Trucks attributes that largely to the way he and Tedeschi approach their leadership role, to "keep the lines of communication wide open" — "treat everybody with dignity and respect and you can make it as a band." For instance, they're cognizant that their band members have lives and families and responsibilities — Trucks and Tedeschi have kids of their own — so they try not to do a lot of long-haul road stints, except in summertime.

"It's not two leaders and a bunch of side men and women; it's a group and there's a lot of respect that flies around, and that goes a long way — you know, when you can look people in the eye and treat them fairly and take their musical thoughts and feelings into account, it goes a long way," Trucks said.

What makes it all work is a shared commitment, he added.

"There's a lot of dedication to what we're doing and there's a real love for the music that we're making, and I think we take the role of the job very seriously," he said. "I mean, I think the music that we play and the music that we draw from is important music to carry on. We've been fortunate to play with a lot of our heroes along the way, whether it's B.B. King or the Allman Brothers or Leon Russell — you know, a lot of people that have left us, and I feel like that music is important to carry on.

"Every night when you hit the stage there's a thing that you're trying to tap into and keep living and breathing in an authentic way, so I think that translates; I think the intention and the intensity and the integrity are things that we try to never lose sight of. You never want to phone it in, you never want to pander to an audience, you never want to do any of those things. You want to really make sure that you're digging deep and trying to ring the bell when you can."

Gates open at 5:30 p.m., and the music starts at 7 p.m. Tickets in the pavilion range from $35 to $125; lawn seating is $20 in advance and $25 on Tuesday. For ticket information, visit

Also at CMAC ...

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra returns to CMAC for its traditional summer show of patriotic and other favorite music, "Red, White & Boom!" at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 7 (gates 6:30 p.m.). The RPO will play such selections as Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" and Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" along with work by Copland, Bernstein, Gershwin, Rossini, John Williams and the RPO's own Jeff Tyzik. A craft beer festival presented by NY Kitchen with beers from assorted local brewers will be taking place in the Headliner Lounge. And wrapping up the night is, of course, is a fireworks display — the "Boom!" Tickets range from $15 to $95 in the pavilion (lawn seating is $21).

On Sunday, July 8, Australian country star Keith Urban ("Blue Ain't Your Color," "Better Life") brings his "Graffiti U" world tour to CMAC, with special guest Kelsea Ballerini. Gates open at 6 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show. Tickets range from $65.60 to $105.50 in the pavilion, or $35 on the lawn.

Some moonlight strolling

Live music, great. Canandaigua's premier historic attraction, Sonnenberg Gardens? Also great. Wine? Great, of course. Put them together, and you've got some evenings to remember.

The Moonlight Stroll Concert Series at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park (151 Charlotte St., Canandaigua) gets under way Friday, July 6, with a two-hour concert by Nightfall After Dark, offering popular rock tunes from the 1960s through the '80s. The gardens are lit and showcase to the public on concert nights, with the opportunity to take evening strolls through the gardens. Wine will be for sale by the glass at Sonnenberg's Finger Lakes Wine Center, along with light snack food. Admission is $10 adults, $8 Sonnenberg members, $5 youth 6-17 and free for ages 5 and younger.

The rest of the season features the Tullamore Celtic Band, July 13; Rochester Metropolitan Jazz Orchetra, July 20; Panloco Steel Band, July 27; and Neville Francis and his Riddim Posse band, Aug. 3.