Shifting back to the MSG show, the Allman Brothers have such a deep catalog of songs. How are you deciding on the night’s setlist?
For me at least, it seems like we worked backwards. You put down the songs that you absolutely have to play first. There’s a stable of songs that have to be done. If you’re only going to do one show, you can’t leave them out, and there’s a lot of them. So it depends on how many of those there are before we can start playing around. We only have so much time. Everybody kind of has that mindset any way, so it’s possible. I would imagine that we will. There’s a whole band deciding on that, so I guess we’ll see.
You’ve mentioned in the past that when you are involved in a project, you jump in with both feet. So, even though you have played a few Allmans’ songs with your band or JRAD in recent years, your setlists have primarily been filled with Dead and Jerry Garcia songs recently. After being away from the Brothers’ songbook for a few years, what strikes you most about their body of work?
The Allman Brothers music is one of those rarities that never got old while we were doing it. Playing “It’s Not My Cross to Bear”—that never got old. It’s rare to find music that is that timeless that you never get tired of. I find the same quality in Grateful Dead music, although I haven’t been playing it nearly as long. Are we ever really going to get tired of “Terrapin Station?” I can’t see it happening. I could say that I really missed playing it, but it’s not like there’s some new thing that I found in it. It’s like going back to a home where you lived for a really long time—it’s just nice to go back. I’m really excited about this.
The Allman Brothers Band played their final run of shows at the Beacon—your longtime home—but, if I am correct, didn’t you discuss doing a final show at MSG for a while?
Yeah, but it was always hard to try to make definitive plans and things would always change. It was difficult at the time, things were in flux a lot with Gregg’s health. I’m glad we’re getting to do it now and I really, honestly didn’t think it would happen. It was hard for me to watch all these bands have a 50th anniversary celebration and not do the Allman Brothers. It’s such iconic music, and like I said, music that never gets old. I’m glad to see it happen.
The Allman Brothers Band’s New York shows were also known for their mix of sit-ins. Do you plan to have any additional special guests?
None of that has been
decided yet, but I don’t know that we’re going to have any people sitting in.
Right now, the only thing I know that is happening is what we announced.
All the surviving members of the Allman Brothers Band’s final lineup are confirmed to appear with the Brothers and, obviously, both Reese and Chuck have a long history with the group. Did you ask any other former members to participate, especially Dickey?
We did reach out to Dickey, but his manager said he is not able to fly right now. It might have something to do with his health issues, but we did reach out to him, for sure. We would definitely have liked him to be there.
When you joined the Allman Brothers in 1997, the band had already had four bass players: Berry [Oakley], Lamar [Williams], David [Goldflies] and [Allen] Woody, each of whom had a different style. How did the process of mixing your own style with each musicians’ interpretation differ from the similar experience you had learning the Grateful Dead’s material?
The way I approached it was, whoever was there for the original recording of the song, that’s the approach that I used. And then I kind of fused mine with that. The stuff that Berry Oakley originally played on, that was always the template. Even through Lamar, David, or Woody, that’s the original and then I’d add my thing to it. With someone like Phil Lesh, it was easier to watch because it was the same person and he changed over the decades. So then I would listen to the way he played it in each decade because it’s the same guy but each change informed how I do it. Once you hear it, it’s in your computer bank. As far as my intention, it was really to start with the original bassist and use that as a template. A lot of these things are actually phase one. They wrote some very defined bass lines and to me, that’s the song. I’m going to play that bass line and then the jam will depart. The only thing that I change from Berry Oakley is shuffles. I just prefer to play a shuffle with my fingers and not with a pick, so I departed from him on that. They were very blessed in the bass department before I got there.
You played a number of shows with Jaimoe, Butch and Marc as part of Les Brers right after the ABB broke up, but it has been a while since you played with the members of the Brothers.
I sat in with TTB when they came to Boca Raton, Fla., near where I live, in 2017. I also just did a symphony thing with Warren in Asheville, N.C. last year—we did a private party with Joe Russo and John Medeski. It’s hard for me to remember exact dates. My brain is wiped since we brought our little girl home.
The last few years have been filled with extreme blessing and amazing things, but also extreme sadness. You’ve gotta focus on the good stuff even if you forget dates at that point.
It’s been hard since 2017, just non-stop. It’s a lot for a heart to take, but I’m glad we got out of 2019 without anyone else passing away. We’ve certainly had enough for one year. It’s been a number of people—Neal Casal, Bruce [Col. Bruce Hampton], Yonrico [Scott], my brother [Kofi]. It’s been a lot.
After this Garden show, do you plan to take the Brothers on the road or stage a second celebration in another market?
I don’t think so—I think this is a one-time-thing. We want to give it the ending that we wish we could have. Not to say that those last Beacon shows weren’t amazing because they were very meaningful, it was very heavy because we knew it was the end. But I’m glad we’re going to get the chance to do this. It’ll be really cathartic for everybody.