Tony Tyler Trance Honors Derek & the Dominos at Gasparilla Music Festival
In the run-up to the Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa (March 7-8), we posted this as part of a preview suggesting six performances worth checking out:
Closer to home, triple threat Tony Tyler (guitar, keyboards & vocals) brings his band Tony Tyler Trance to perform Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos, the only studio recording of the band which emerged out of Delaney and Bonnie and Friends and from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass sessions: Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, and Jim Gordon.
We all know that Duane Allman was the catalyst who ignited the Layla sessions in Miami in the summer of 1970, but Allman was not on the Europe live dates and only played on two in the U.S.: December 1, 1970, at Curtis Hixon Hall, which operated on the grounds now known as the park, and the following night in Syracuse (now THAT must have been a haul!).
Tyler and bandmates have done this sort of exercise often, playing track by track Live at the Fillmore East, Eat a Peach, and The Song Remains the Same, among others. He will be joined by some Bay area titans, including Kenneth Harvey on bass, Brad Elliott on drums, Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris; Tony Morales, percussion; Mark Mayea, keyboards; and Mike Nivens, guitar. (Harvey and Morales also play with Holey Miss Moley, Mayea and Nivens with Ajeva.) Tyler will soon release a new single, “Bad Love,” which he recorded recently at the newly reopened Capricorn Studios in Macon.
Several notes before we dig in. There were only two sets Saturday allotted 90 minutes: headliner Brandi Carlile (and did she every make magic!) and Tony Tyler Trance. Tyler could easily have filled another 90 minutes with the four tracks from Layla they didn’t get to and songs from Clapton’s eponymous debut released earlier in 1970; both featured songs that were concert staples on the U.S. tour (especially “Blues Power > Have You Ever Loved a Woman,” “Got to Get Better in a Little While,” “Bottle of Red Wine,” and “Let It Rain”). I was beyond fortunate to see Derek and the Dominos play three sets over two nights (October 16-17, 1970) at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia, and I remember. The Fillmore East shows were October 23-24.
On to the GMF set Saturday, March 7. The septet jumped immediately on four tracks from Layla, opening appropriately with “I Looked Away,” the album’s first song. Tyler was in great voice, and throughout the set keyboard wizard Mark Mayea, also an accomplished guitarist, shone on backing, harmony, and lead vocals. They shifted down a gear for the leisurely “Key to the Highway” and “Bell Bottom Blues.”
The percussion team was killer. Brad Elliott and Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris were in perfect union, and the great addition was Tony Morales on his array of percussion instruments. Meanwhile, Kenny Harvey continues to blow minds with his creative bass lines; he did so from start to finish. Tyler, who handled the slide guitar parts made famous by Duane Allman, matched up perfectly with Mike Nivens on guitar. This band was a joy to behold.
After “Keep On Growing,” Tyler mentioned some apocryphal jams during the recording of Layla when Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe dropped in. Apparently, there are recordings, and they play “Jam IV.” Harvey on bass and Mayea on piano and then Hammond B3 owned this one. Mayea then grabbed lead vocal on “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” just as bluesy as its title suggests.
For me, the pinnacle of the set was “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” Tyler blistered this one on vocals and guitar. I sure hope there is video or at least audio evidence somewhere. Morales’ timbales were perfection. Next up was “Tell the Truth.” On Clapton’s solo album, it’s a real rocker. Tyler and the boys played this one as it appears on Layla, somewhere between half- and three-quarters-tempo. The harmony vocals were excellent.
Tyler then invited up George Pennington III, explaining that he would play and sing the song from Layla that “two guitar legends did for another guitar legend, although he didn’t get the chance to hear it,” speaking of Jimi Hendrix. (Hendrix died September 18; the album wasn’t released until November 9. Unlike the Tampa show’s poster, some markets didn’t broadcast the upcoming concerts as featuring Eric Clapton, and most did not sell out. Who the hell are Derek & the Dominos?) Pennington lovingly massaged “Little Wing,” the Hendrix composition on Axis: Bold as Love. Pennington’s guitar work has always impressed; it was his outstanding singing that truly stood out.
With 20 minutes remaining, Tyler addressed the crowd, which was huge for a set at 2:30 on the second stage. “What song do you want to hear? I know what song I want to play.” It was, of course, “Layla.” The rock part was superb — Nivens was crushing, the tender ending even better. Tyler’s slide was on point, and Mayea’s piano pushed it straight over the top.
There was time for one more song, and Tyler wisely chose “Anyday,” a tune well know as a favorite of the Allman Brothers Band and Tedeschi Trucks Band as well.
One last item: Tyler told us that, “The Coricidin bottle slide that I was using yesterday was given to me by Dickey Betts and belonged to Duane Allman”!
Bravo, Tyler, Nivens, Mayea, Harvey, Elliott, Morris, and Morales! Well done, Phil Benito and GMF, for booking this set! And kudos to the sound engineers on all four stages: best festival sound EVER!
[TTT do D&tDs: I Looked Away, Key to the Highway, Bell Bottom Blues, Keep On Growing, ABB Jam IV, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?, Tell the Truth, Little Wing, Layla, Anyday]