Though recorded nearly two years before the release of the Derek Trucks Band's previous album, Soul Serenade feels like a step forward from Joyful Noise in its maturity and focus. By almost any measure, this is a jazz album; the only references to rock can be heard in the overdriven tone and bluesy slide phrasing that Trucks consistently employs. The prominence of the Hammond organ, and in particular its registration and abundant Leslie tremolo, also nods transparently toward the leader's apprenticeship in the Allman Brothers Band. The rhythm feel is subtle, though, with an understated swing that borrows from this or that corner of world music but unmistakably centers itself on jazz practice. In particular, Kofi Burbridge's aromatic flute solos, and the drumming of Yonrico Scott, with its freedom, timbral nuance, and well-placed transitional rolls, pull the sound far away from rock or even from the jazz-flavored but backbeat-driven Allman Brothers groove. One track, the Gregg Allman vocal cameo, a full-blooded rendition of "Drown in My Own Tears" that features brisk back-and-forth between the singer and Trucks, sinks from the jazz embrace and into the bosom of the blues; another, "Sierra Leone," builds a musical bridge from the Missisippi Delta back to Africa, in resonant acoustic timbres. In this context, these two moments only enrich the spectrum of Soul Serenade without at all detracting from the integrity and maturity of Trucks's vision.
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AllMusic Review by Robert L. Doerschuk
feat: Gregg Allman